Archive for February, 2012
Hey everyone and welcome back to another week of “On the Bump”. We had a great week of practice and finished the week with an intrasquad on Saturday. In this week’s installment of the blog, I will give you an inside look at our prior week of practice, introduce you to the 2012 Gents outfield, and explain why I believe our lineup will be one of the best in Division 3 baseball this season.
We had a great week of practice and as a result we played a crisp, smooth, and polished intrasquad. I think guys are really beginning to see how competitive things get when it comes to playing time, and everyone is stepping up their game in hopes of cracking the lineup.
One thing that really stood out to me this past week was our depth. At the beginning of the year, I was concerned about how well our freshmen class would adapt to the speed of the college game. In the fall, you could tell the transition was tough for many of our new guys. However, this past week I saw guys making plays and decisions that were “college-type” plays instead of the “freshman-level” mistakes they made in the fall. Our coaching staff has divided our players into “Team 1″, “Team 2″, and “Team 3″ the past week. “Team 1″ is made up of our tentative starters, while “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ challenge “Team 1″ each day at practice. Our starting lineup is made up of predominantly returners (guys on the team last year) and Junior College transfers. Needless to say, “Team 1″ easily handled the other 2 teams in our scrimmages throughout the fall. Early in the week, Coach Stephens challenged the younger guys to compete and take somebody’s spot. Needless to say, “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ rose to the occasion and defeated “Team 1″ a couple of times this week in our scrimmages. I do not really think our guys stepped up their physical ability, but instead they stepped up their effort, mental game, and baseball IQ. They took pride in their game and as a result they had a great week of practice. I believe our team really turned a corner this week because when “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ play well, it pushes “Team 1″ to step up their game a notch and compete as well. We really played a quality week of baseball and the difference between our practices in early October and mid-January are night and day. I really believe our program has a great future in front of us because our freshmen will continue to grow physically, mentally, and improve their skill set as well.
A few guys that really played well in practice this week were William Fulton, Dakota Brown, Scotty Debrouwer, and Erasmo Valdez. Fulton absolutely took over a scrimmage in the middle of the week by swinging the bat well and playing great defense in left field. He made a catch while diving head first into our bullpen after running about 60 feet to track down the ball. While this may not impress you, take into consideration that the guy had knee surgery in October. It was great to see him out there showing his potential and finally healthy. In the infield, Brown, Debrouwer, and Valdez all played solid defense and looked crisp. You never know who will slump or be injured, so it is really encouraging to see our young freshmen stepping up and taking their game to a new level.
Now, let’s meet the 2012 Centenary Gents outfield. Tyler Clakley has played a great right field all fall for us. He has a very strong arm from the outfield and he has swung the bat well since day 1 in August. We were fortunate to have him transfer in this season from Tyler Junior College. Senior Dan Lazarou returns in center field. Dan saw time in all 3 outfield positions last season, and his experience will be key to our outfield defense’s success. He is 6’6 with good speed, so all the pitchers and myself love having a centerfielder that can cover the spacious outfield of Shehee Stadium. Left field is a little bit of an unknown right now. The starter at that position will likely depend on the health of some our guys come Opening Day, but I am not concerned. I believe that any guy that we put out there will be a great addition to our lineup. Ryan Gasporra and Nick Gobert have both played well in left field since we started up. The rest of our outfield consists of Jemari James, Nic Parrott, Gilbert Boudreaux, Ben Williams, William Fulton, Jake Moore, Timmy Chhor, and Connor McPherson. Jemari will likely fill our Designated Hitter slot, as he has swung a powerful bat all year. Nic Parrott is a 2-way player (pitcher and position player) that will likely be called upon for his speed and defense. Boudreaux transferred in at semester, and he has shown he is capable of earning playing time this season although only being with the program for 2 weeks so far. Ben Williams is a strong freshman that squatted over 500 pounds in the fall and has made great strides as a hitter. As I stated earlier, Fulton just recovered from knee surgery, but he is already making an impact in practice and turning heads. Jake Moore is our resident “string bean” (he is really skinny), but he has really improved his game as well. You can tell he takes pride in getting better each day and he is very coachable. He has earned some reps with “Team 1″ this year because of his ability to do whatever the team needs him to do. Timmy Chhor is our speedster from Carthage, Texas. An interesting fact about Timmy is that he can throw the ball well with either hand. Connor McPherson is new to the outfield, but he swung the bat well all fall. He had a knack for getting clutch hits in the fall, and as a result he is battling for playing time as well.
At the beginning I stated that I believe we will have one of the best lineups in Division 3 this season. While it is a bold claim, I firmly believe that our hitters will prove me right. Every scrimmage is a battle for our pitching staff. There are no easy outs in our starting lineup, and they all have the ability to hit the ball into the gaps for extra bases every time they step into the batter’s box. While it is a given that hitters will have their ups and downs, I believe our lineup is strong enough to pick each other up and help their teammates battle out of slumps. I can’t wait to see what our hitters do to opposing pitching when games start up this fall. Our lineup is so big that Ryan Gasporra decided to nickname our line-up the “Monstars” (in reference to the movie Space Jam). If you do not know who the “Monstars” are, do a quick Google images search. Basically, they are overgrown monsters that dominate basketball. The nickname is appropriate because I think our hitters have the ability to take over games and carry the team.
One thing that makes our lineup so strong is their work ethic. I was really proud of how hard our team worked in the weight room this off-season. We have a really strong team and that numbers our guys threw up on their max-out days for lifting were amazing. If you were to glance at the sheet, you would have thought you were reading the max lifts for squat and bench of a football team. The scary thing is that our team is very young. This means that these guys will only get stronger as they continue their baseball careers. Like I said earlier, the future for our program is bright.
One last thing I would like to mention is our team’s academic performance. Centenary is a fairly challenging institution. We were highlighted by Blake Bourgoyne and Jeff Schaffert earning a spot on the Dean’s List. Blake had a perfect 4.0 GPA, which is tough to do, yet alone in your first semester of college at Centenary. Also, both of these guys are pre-med students and are loaded with tough science courses. I believe they deserve special recognition for performing so well in the classroom given the difficulty of their workload. It’s not easy being a student-athlete, but I am glad our team is learning to take pride in their academics. For example, guys that made under a 2.0 GPA last semester don’t get to practice with the team on Mondays. Instead, they get to attend study hall. Our coaching staff has taken it upon themselves to ensure that we develop as men, students, and baseball players. Study hall is not a punishment, but rather a chance to re-prioritize your academics and improve your academics.
Opening Day is 11 days away and I know our guys are ready to get out there and compete. Check back next week to hear about another week of practice and to meet our 2012 pitchers and catchers. Go Gents!
Hello everyone and welcome back to another year of “On The Bump”. When last season finished, I was unsure if I would return to Centenary for my junior year. Over the summer I decided that Centenary was the best fit for me and I chose to return to Centenary for my last 2 years of school. I chose to return to Centenary because of the family atmosphere, coaching staff, and opportunities on the field this season. I had a fun summer in Seattle playing for the Kitsap Bluejackets, and I am glad I returned to Centenary to finish my collegiate career.
Our first game is February 4th against Hendrix College. Until then, I will give you an inside look into our program and give a brief outline of a week in the life of a Centenary baseball player. This week, I will cover the highlights of our fall semester, and preview the 2012 infielders. Next week (January 24) I will introduce you to the Gents outfield, and the week after that (January 31) I will preview our 2012 pitchers and catchers.
We have 37 players this year, including 4 that transferred in this semester. Our team is predominantly from Texas and Louisiana, but we have guys from all over the Western Hemisphere. We have guys from California to the Virgin Islands, and from Texas to Canada. Despite , our team has great chemistry and we have a lot of fun out on the field.
The majority of our coaching staff returned from last season, including head coach Mike Diaz, pitching coach Jason Stephens, and hitting guru Pat Jolley. We also added outfield/hitting coach Tim Ryan, who played for Centenary from 2004-2006. He has done a great job working with our outfielders and hitters.
Our fall highlights included a doubleheader scrimmage against LSU-Shreveport, a fall World Series, and the alumni game. In our scrimmage against LSU-S we lost 3-1 and 7-2. While we lost both games, it was a great measuring stick for our team and it was great to see all of the new guys in the program get out and compete against another team. Also, LSU-S is a great NAIA program. They finished in the top 5 in the NAIA rankings last season and ended their season with a trip to the NAIA World Series. Our fall World Series was fun because Coach Jolley coached one team while the other team was managed by Coach Ryan. It was pretty funny watching those two try to make trades before the game and set their lineups the exact way they wanted. In the end, Coach Jolley’s team swept the series 2 games to none. Alumni weekend is always one of the best weekends of the year because so many of the old players come back to participate in the golf tournament and baseball game during the weekend. I enjoy it because the alumni take a sincere interest in the well being of the team and they are always excited to see the program grow from the solid foundation they built while they played here. The current squad defeated the alumni 5-0 this year. The highlight of the game was definitely Ryan Gasporra’s home run that hit off of the top of the scoreboard in right-center field.
Now I will introduce you to the 2012 Centenary Gents infield. At first base we welcome back Kyle Morton, who has looked good swinging the bat this fall. He has also done a great job of helping freshmen Jon Wilson and Blake Bourgoyne learn the system at first base as well. In the middle infield we return Matt Creamer. He has played great defense all fall and he is really starting to swing the bat as well. Matt is the only guy left from my freshman recruiting class so you may see him get a lot of shout outs on here. Craig Littleman, a junior college (JUCO) transfer from Arizona has also looked good on the field this fall. Scotty Debrouwer, Kennen Cobb, Christian Sebastien, and Erasmo Valdez are all freshmen that are competing for time in the middle infield. The great thing is that each of these guys brings a specific skill set to the table. I am very confident that any of the guys would do great in whatever role they are asked to play. Sometimes a guy may be asked to come in and pinch-hit and lay down a sacrifice bunt. While this may seem insignificant, we will likely need the sacrifice at a key point in the game. At third base we return Marc Martinez. Marc has really stepped up his defense this year while continuing to swing a hot bat. Dakota Brown will also battle for playing time at third base and in the middle infield. Another good thing about all of our freshmen infielders is that the majority of them have strong enough arms to play 2nd, 3rd, or shortstop. This allows our coaching staff to be much more creative with the lineup, and also gives each guy a better chance to get in the game and help the team.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out the blog this week. Stop by next week to hear about our 2nd full week of practice as we continue to prepare for our February 4th game against Hendrix College. Go Gents!
Also, shout out to senior basketball player Maxx Nakwaasah. He eclipsed the 1,000 career points mark this past weekend, and on Monday he broke Robert Parish’s 40 year old school record for points in a single game. His 51 points broke Parish’s old record of 50. Parish was recently voted one of the top 50 NBA players of all-time, so it was a tremendous accomplishment.
Opening weekend is in the books for everyone. We had everything you can think of across the country. Rain, snow, sunshine, wind, extra innings, upsets, blowouts, nail-biters – EVERYTHING a college baseball fan could hope for. What a way to kick off the year, and just think – there’s months of this stuff just waiting for you to enjoy!
For us, opening weekend brought rain. Now before all you east coast folks reading this (all 4 of you) start breaking out the Seattle rain jokes (all 4 million of them) bear in mind that it was just a dribble by our standards. We only had one delay and that was just a precaution. We could have played if needed. It did get a little nippy when the wind picked up but our opponents, Utah Valley University, are used to even colder climes so it really turned out to be a non-factor. In fact, UVU’s pitching coach Dave Carter, a friend, went certifiable bad-ass on us all and coached 3rd base without a jacket. Hats off my man, hats off.
As for the games, there was a lot to be hopeful about and encouraged by, but also some major holes in our game that the Wolverines exposed. On day 1 we had what I thought was quite a good day offensively in regards to approach, scoring 8 runs on 14 hits, and that’s taking into account my obvious bias as the hitting coach trying to keep his job. Most teams will take that day, no? To go with that solid day at the plate, our starting pitcher, a senior named Seafth Howe, did what he does and pulled the strings on all his pitches for 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits. He was brilliant. And he’ll do it again. He’s got to be the only starting RHP in all of Division I baseball that doesn’t break 80 MPH (OK, so that’s not entirely true – he smacked an 81 on a FB in the 6th). What he does is befuddle the other side over and over and over. Nothing is straight and nothing is ever the same speed it was the last time you saw it. It’s beautiful.
We skipped Saturday due to some high wind forecasts and enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day on Sunday. Our performance was far from gorgeous though. They day started early, as we bundled up in our rain gear and work clothes to remove the tarp and rake and squeegee. Really glamorous work for I’ll have you know for those that think the Division I lifestyle is like an episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. We get our hands dirty at the mid-major level folks! The field prep was not the only challenge we had that morning though. Prior to batting practice, we shared a moment with the family of Cam Christian, our fallen team captain. We circled the mound and huddled with his parents siblings, all of us a family forever now. His sister tearfully spread a few of his ashes as his brother led us in prayer. Tears were not in short supply. Whether that affected us in game 1 is not in doubt, why it affected us in the way it did is a mystery to me. We managed only 4 hits and 2 runs, all while giving up 15. Not the way we wanted to honor Cam’s memory. He may have felt compelled to smack us back into action though in the nightcap, however. Down 4-1 in the 7th inning, and on probably his only good swing of the weekend, Doug Kincaid blasted a grand slam into the Bellevue wetlands to give us a lead, one that we would not relinquish. Cam very well may have given that ball a little more loft. He also aided us in the 9th as UVU was rallying. All the momentum has swung in their favor thanks to some hits and a few errors on our part. Suddenly, the sprinklers sprung into action, causing a 5 minute delay. Utah would not score again. Thanks CC!
As you read this, we have probably already finished our game with intense cross-town rival University of Washington. Split the season series last year, but you can be sure we are gunning for more. If my next blog is rated R you’ll know how the game turned out. See y’all.
Week Two Blog
During our early bye week, I have been playing particular attention to our pitchers and catchers.
Pitchers, as many of us know, are stereotyped as odd, quirky, different and “non-athletic.” Whether or not these stereotypes are true for your staff, we can agree that each pitcher has different stuff, a different routine and a distinctly different personality. Position players often look out at the bullpen like it is another planet. Throw “stuff” out the window for a minute and think about the individuals on your pitching staff. Each guy on your staff has a certain amount of potential. Reaching that potential does not only depend on his throwing program, his arm care work, or what he does in the gym or between outings for his conditioning. All of that is crucial—and there are many philosophies in that department. However, figuring out what makes each guy on your staff “tick” is just as important as all of the physical aspects that go along with preparing to pitch. No one can help a coaching staff prepare your arms between the ears like your corps of catchers can.
Catchers act as a bridge between position players and pitchers. They are the position players who have to travel to that “other planet” and get to know the other life form living there. The dynamic between catcher and pitcher is fascinating. Catching, at the Big League level has recently affected the free-agent market. A few pitchers have actually turned down millions with one team in order to pitch for a another lesser paying team that has the catcher that they trust. What about the pitching coach? What about the long toss program? What about the money? Throw them out the window. Catchers can make the difference in one’s career on the mound.
College teams average somewhere between 16 and 18 arms on a pitching staff. That is 16-18 different personalities that a catcher must know in order to help his staff become they best that they can be. A catcher must not only know what pitches to call when—it is important, don’t get me wrong. But, what tends to get overlooked the most is that a catcher must become a chameleon that blends into a pitcher’s routine during their mid-week bullpen session, during their pre-game routine and during the game in which they are pitching. At the same time, a catcher must be able to effectively communicate, which includes both critiquing and complimenting. The effective communicator will pick his spots, knowing when to criticize, when to compliment and when to keep his mouth shut—all while keeping a guy from getting out of the comfort of his routine.
Pitcher’s routines are fragile. How many times have you seen a pitcher get out of sync with their routine, only to have a miserable outing as a result? One pitch in the bullpen or during his warm-up session is all it takes with some guys to get out of whack. Good catchers see it or feel the instant it goes wrong and can get inside the guy on the bump’s head at that moment. Bad catchers further disrupt the pitcher’s routine, only making the situation worse. The best behind the plate figure out a way to prevent the routine from going bad before the others at the park even realize it could have gone bad.
As a catcher, handling a staff is far more important than receiving, blocking or throwing out runners. The 16-18 guys on any given staff are individuals and need to be treated that way. Catchers who figure this out are the guys that the majority of arms on a pitching staff start asking to throw to and that is the best compliment that a catcher can receive (no pun intended).
Head Baseball Coach
Hola beisbol enthusiast and #Argonation!
A lot has been happening since my last blog. Life is busy, lots of things going on. A wise man once told me, that life is a journey, not a destination. The Argos and myself are trying to enjoy this sometimes stressful journey. Despite an offensive that is seemingly still in hibernation, we have managed to begin the season 6-1, and currently on a 6 game win streak.
The way in which these victories have come could be mind boggling to some. To us, they are victories. Could we do better? Of course, everybody could. But are we happy to be 6-1? Of course, anybody would be. Its hard to really judge our season based on looking at the numbers, because when you do you can’t help but think, “wait, are you sure they are 6-1, and not 1-6″? The team batting average is a whopping .257, but we have been pitching great and playing good defense, which is the backbone of our program.
Jr. Drew Bryson *Photo by Chris Nelson
After 7 games, there has been a definite separation of what some players roles will be at this point of the season. Junior Lefty, but more importantly one of my “littles” on the team, Drew Bryson (Wallace State-Hanceville CC) has been strong out of the pen for us! He comes in throwing strikes and has a mid 90′s fastball. Also a pleasant surprise out of the pen has been Freshmen Jordan DeLorenzo (Winter Park, Fla.). DeLo has assumed the role of Luke Skywalker, while I am Master Yoda. As a baby lion cub must learn from its parents the basic ways of life, DeLo is soaking up my knowledge. For example, on a crucial strikeout, there needs to be an occasional “TAKE A SEAT, MEAT” from the dugout, and DeLo has hit the ground running. I see a bright future for this kid, as long as he doesn’t leave school to start giving dancing lessons at the local retirement home.
Zach North and myself at the CWS. Good Times
If you had followed the blogs from last year, you would know based on my descriptive imagery, and occasional movie clip that I am the quote, “Fungo Master”. For every Fungo Master, there must be a Master Catch-Man. Last year, the Undisputed Champion was Zach North. No doubt about it! If you think its hard replacing 12 seniors, imagine having to pick 1 person out of 40 to replace a catch man like North. It’s impossible. But despite all odds, I found my guy. Sophomore transfer, Dan Husum (Wallace State CC). His potential is limitless, and he can “pick it like a booger” as I say. That means he is good at catching the ball on a short hop, a tough quality to find in an individual.
Jordan DeLorenzo showing his moves
Previously this week, the Argo Baseball team made a guest appearance to the Azalea Trace retirement community for their annual Valentine’s Day Dance. It was a great opportunity for the team to do something out of the sometimes monotonous routine of going to sleep at 10, waking up at 6, going to school until 3, then baseball until 5 everyday. Oh wait…… that’s just me. But seriously, it was great to go to this event and it really was a great opportunity to socialize and dance with these older women. Some of the players could definitely learn a thing or two from some of these ladies. They may be old, but they can still move! OH BABY!
Coming this weekend, will be the toughest test thus far for the Argo Baseball team. We are traveling South to Lakeland, Fl to take on Florida Southern College. FSC always has a very competitive squad, and considering the way we have competed over the past 2 seasons, it is this amateur blogger, and future teachers opinion that this weekend will not be any different.
One last thing………. THE STACHE IS BACK!!! BOOM!
Don’t be afraid to follow me on Twitter for updates and a good laugh. http://bit.ly/TWITTERPHILLYBERT36
Philip Ebert “Señor Stache”
GO ARGOS! #ArgoNation
The 2012 College Baseball season kicks off Friday night under the Lights at UCF for the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. UCF will be opening a new stadium renovation this evening and our guys are eager for the challenge of the #21 ranked Knights.
Junior RHP Chris Franzese will get the ball for the Blackbirds in Game 1.Franzese is coming off a stellar 2011 campaign that saw him win 7 games and earn a spot on the 1st team All NEC squad. 2011 Johnny Bench Award Finalist Catcher Tyler Jones leads an improved LIU Brooklyn offense into the weekend. CF Pete Leonello and 2B Brad Greve will be looked upon to set the table for the Blackbirds. The middle of our line up has some proven run producers in it with Jones, Walsh and JUCO transfer Chris Untereiner. Returning players Tito Marrero, Albert Faz, Julian Castro and Mike Garcia have had strong Fall and Spring seasons so far and will be productive for us. new comer Freshman Jesse Brown has shown some tremendous power between the Fall and Spring and will also see a lot of time in the DH slot when not catching or playing 3B.
Overall we feel like we have a better club than the team that set a school record for wins in 2011 and made an NEC Tournament appearance. The college baseball season is a long one, filled with ups and downs. we remind our guys every day that it’s a marathon not a sprint. The experience of playing a Nationally ranked program like UCF out of the gate is key for our club. Although we are different, there are a lot of similarities between us and UCF. UCF in 2011 made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in I believe 7 years. we made our first NEC Tournament appearance in 11 years. UCF is trying to reach a Super Regional in 2012 while we are looking to take that next step and go to a Regional. although different, this is a tale of two hungry programs on the rise.
After 6 baseball games on our opening week of the season we finished at a disapointing 4-2. We opened the season in New Orleans on Tuesday against the University of New Orleans playing a double header. However, our bats didn’t get the memo that the season had started. We were held to 4 hits and scratched only 1 run in the opener which made for a disappointing start to the 2012 season with a 7-1 loss. The second game was a different story. Lead off hitter Trey Buck got the party started with a triple which lead to a 3-run first inning followed by a 4-run second inning. Our pitchers pitched by committee and 7 runs were all they needed. Sophomore Janson Carr got the start and struck out 4 batters in 2 innings pitched. Four other pitchers held the Privateers to only one run and we got the win 7-1.
Angelo State, Lindenwood, Arkansas Tech, and Univ of Arkansas Moniticello came to Magnolia this weekend for the 2nd annual Mulerider classic. First on our schedule was Angelo State. It was great baseball weather for the Friday nightcap with temperatures that felt like the upper 20s. Despite the cold weather, our bats stayed hot as we pounded out 12 hits and scored 7 runs. Senior Doug shields went 6 innings to pick up the win, only allowing 4 hits and striking out 5 Angelo State batters. Juniors John Mark Abbey and Justin Parsons, along with senior Joey Cifuentes, all pitched one inning in relief, not allowing any runs.
The next night we faced Lindenwood, it was another cold night and we knew they would be a tough team because they handed us our first loss last season. They struck first getting one run in the 3rd but we came back with 3 of our own in the bottom half. We tacked on a 5 spot in the 5th and ended up winning the game 12 to 2 in 8 innings. Sophomore James Baune picked up his first collegiate win. He through 6 innings allowing one run on 6 hits and recorded 4 strikeouts. Trey Buck led us offensively with 3 hits.
The Mulerider fans and baseball fans in general that saw both of our games on Sunday got their moneys worth. The first game of the day was against Arkansas Tech. In the 6th inning they scored 6 runs and we found ourselves in a hole 9 to 4. We scratched a run across in the bottom half of the 6th and then got 2 more in the bottom of the 7th. Our pitchers held the Wonderboys off the board in the 7th and 8th innings. In the bottom of the 8th with the go ahead run on second, senior first baseman David Allday singled down the right field line to give us the lead. Justin Thomas quickly shut the door in the 9th and we had completed our dramatic comeback win, 10-9. The nightcap against Arkansas-Monticello had the same feel as the first game. The game went back and forth the whole time, both teams got 2 runs in the first inning. We pushed across 4 runs in the bottom of the 3rd, but they came right back at us with 4 of their own in the top of the 4th inning. They added another run to take the lead in 6th and then we tied it up again in the 7th. They scored 2 runs in the 8th to take the lead again. Going into the bottom of the 9th we were down 9 to 7. But the game was far from over, 3 out of our first 4 batters of the inning got hit and we had the bases loaded with one out. A sac fly by freshman catcher Ryan Dardenne got the game within one run followed by a full count walk by DH Phillip Menou (who also led us offensively with 3 hits) to load the bases back up with 2 outs. Senior second baseman Jody Spain swung at the first pitch he saw and smoked a ground ball that everyone thought was headed for the outfield but UAM’s third baseman made a diving stop and got the out at first to end to game. It was a day of dramatic baseball that ended on a sour note.
We are headed to Abilene, TX today to take on Abilene Christian in a 3 game series on Friday and Saturday. Should be another weekend of great baseball.
The PSAC has a new home for the month of February … North Carolina. Our league has played 19 games, all in the state of North Carolina.
Kutztown 2-2 at Barton
Millersville 3-1 at Winston-Salem State
East Stroudsburg 3-0 at St. Augustine’s
Shippensburg 1-2 at Catawba
Mercyhurst 3-0 at Chowan
Cal 1-1 at Mars Hill
PSAC 13 North Carolina 6 … nice way to start the season!
We open our season at Chowan in North Carolina on February 25.
Last week was a busy week for the Otters, playing 6 games in 6 days for our last week of preseason. The week started on Tuesday with a doubleheader at a very tough Fresno Pacific. Fresno Pacific is a nationally ranked NAIA school that will be entering Division II next season. Traveling to FPU was important for us to do in the preseason for a couple of reasons; to get off of our turf and on some grass and to also play under the lights because we will have some night games this season and in the playoffs. It turned out being a very long day for our squad, but the boys responded to their first big road test.
We dropped the first game of the doubleheader despite a strong pitching performance from starter Jordan Helmkamp. We made some timely errors and did not get the two-out hit that has been alluding us in this young season. The nightcap of the doubleheader was a different story. Steven Farnworth made his first collegiate start on the mound a memorable one, striking out 8 hitters in 4 innings without surrendering a hit. Farnworth was followed by strong relief performances by Zac Grotz and Harold Zosel. Chris Lopiccolo and Tommy George were the hitting stars of the game, notching two hits a piece to pace the Otter offensive attack.
We hosted Central Washington for a four game set for our final preseason tuneup. The series started with a sloppy performance, but another victory in the 14 inning affair. Just before darkness was to end the game, freshman Chris Blanton hit a walk-off single to score Tommy George to end the game 7-6. Both George and CCAA Player of the Week Jason Merjano registered 4 hit games. Jake Paolinetti picked up his first win of the season by pitching 4 innings of 1-run ball in relief. He continued his extra innings heroics he became known for last season.
Saturday’s doubleheader was a tale of two games. In the first, some sloppy pitching and defense led to a 8-7 defeat. The offense also could not break the game open, despite putting up 14 hits. In the second game of the doubleheader, Don Medlinger improved his record to 2-0, pitching 5 innings and only surrendering 1 run. He was relieved with scoreless appearances by Jonas Noack and Austin Thiel. Jason Merjano continued his torrid hitting with a 2-hit, 2-RBI performance to pace the offense.
Sunday’s game saw us put on our cleanest and most complete performance of the year with a 9-3 victory. Ronnie Fhurong, Jason Merjano, David Garcia, and Jared DeCastro all registered multi-hit games to pace the 9-run attack. Chris Neifert, Jordan Helmkamp, Steven Farnworth, and Harold Zosel all put in solid pitching performances to score the victory for the Otters. Neifert gave up 0 runs and grabbed his first victory in his first collegiate start.
Now that preseason is over, we turn our focus to the grueling CCAA schedule that awaits us. We start on the road against a very good Cal Poly Pomona team this weekend. CPP is 7-0 and our coming off a Regional appearance last season. The road series will provide us with a test of our preparation up to this point. 3 out of our first 4 weekends in the CCAA are on the road against tournament teams last season. We will be tested early and often, and we embrace the challenge and can’t wait to show off our squad.
College baseball’s length of season is one of the most interesting dynamics in college sports in regards to the adversity that can result from partaking in the “marathon.” This weekend, our club went through a lot of adversity. For starters, the weather in Pennsylvania this off-season has been absolutely outstanding (as it has been in most of the country). The warm trends on the East Coast have allowed for more outdoor baseball in January than most coaches and players can remember. That being said, one would expect the warm weather trend to continue into opening weekend—especially when a ballclub travels eight hours south. If there is one overall lesson I have learned in my short tenure as a college baseball coach, it has been never create or partake in expectations. The temperatures in Winston-Salem never got out of the 30’s during any of our four games. In fact, the first pitch of game 2 of Saturday’s double-header, the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees with sustained winds of 15-20 mph (wind chill in the single digits and teens). Adverse conditions? Absolutely.
The second bit of adversity that we ran into this weekend was one bad hop that hit our second baseman in the chest during game two. One would think that one bad hop isn’t all that adverse, but in our wonderful game—one that is mostly played between the ears—a bad bounce can and will create a lack of confidence and trust. In short, our middle infielders lost trust in the playing surface and themselves. Again, after leading the NCAA Division II in defense in 2011, one would not expect our middle guys to struggle opening weekend on the defensive side of the ball. When things go unexpectedly, they are adverse.
Without going into detail, officiating played a part in the series this weekend, from the standpoint of adversity; in any four game series it will. Because of NCAA rules, I will not discuss the play or even place any blame on umpiring. The bottom line is that every season for every team, during the marathon of college baseball, calls on the field made by umpires will either be in your favor or not in your favor. This past weekend, some calls went our way, while others did not. However, I have very seldom seen umpires who do not give their best effort while officiating a ball game. The beauty of trusting another human to officiate a game (and not a camera) is what continues to make our game pure. Its imperfections and adversity are what teach our young men playing the game about the realities of life.
Adversity, in this day and age, has become a cliché to those of us in our business. Many talk about it openly, throwing around quotes of those who have learned to use it to their advantage. Many do their best informing their team about it, defining it, and explaining what will result from it if one allows it to affect them negatively. But, few actually master reacting to it. The great Mark Twain once wrote, “By trying, we can easily endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.” In my humble opinion, at the NCAA Division II level of baseball, there is VERY little difference between the best and the mediocre, between winning a conference title and finishing 5th, between winning a regional and missing the regional completely. However, a ball club’s reaction to adversity is absolutely, 100% the piece of the development puzzle that can either vault a club into greatness or create cancerous mediocrity, ruining a year’s worth blood, sweat and tears. Simply, those who master their reaction to adversity are successful over the long haul, while others who cannot handle it will undoubtedly fall short of their goals.
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