On the Bump with Cole Thompson
Hello Gents’ fans and welcome back to another week of “On the Bump”. This is a busy but short week for us, as Easter weekend is on the horizon. We only have classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then we are off for the rest of the week. However, it is far from an off-week on the baseball field, as we are preparing for a busy weekend with nationally ranked UT-Tyler. This week I will talk about our three game series with Mississippi College, and explain to you why we are not eligible to be ranked this year in the national polls. I know there has been a lot of confusion, so I will try my best to make it short and simple.
This past week was a little different because Coach Jolley hosted a Spring Break Baseball Camp for local Shreveport kids. When we weren’t in class, it was likely that you could find our players out at the field helping organize and run the camp. It was fun to get out there and share our baseball knowledge with young campers.
Our practice during the week was short, but intense and busy. We really hammered down on improving our defense, and our pitchers threw their bullpens to live hitters. It was the kind of week where we expose our weaknesses, but with the intent to better ourselves by strengthening the weakest parts of our game.
On Thursday afternoon we left for Mississippi College, which is in Clinton, Mississippi. It was about a three-hour bus ride, and we arrived at Mississippi College around 7 p.m. We took batting practice in their batting cages and our pitchers played catch in the outfield. One of the first things we noticed was that Mississippi College had great facilities and a nice field. After practice we headed over to a nice meal at Applebee’s, which we all enjoyed.
Friday was a great day because we did not have a morning practice or a wake-up call for an early game. Since we didn’t play until 6 p.m., we were able to sleep until about 10 a.m. and then go grab breakfast in the hotel lobby. You could tell that our offense was well rested, as they erupted for five runs in the top of the first inning of game one. Ryan Gasporra doubled to start the rally, and Tyler Clakley knocked him in with a two run homer to right field. Next, Kyle Morton smoked a double to right field, and scored on an RBI single by Jeff Schaffert. Jemari James capped off the inning with a two run bomb to right field that hit off the top of the scoreboard at Mississippi College. Mississippi College scored a single run in the first and second innings to make the score 5-2, but we answered with another run in the third inning on an RBI double by Marc Martinez, which drove in Jeff Schaffert.
Lance Nugent held the Mississippi College bats in check over the next few innings, as we took our 6-2 lead into the sixth inning. Our bats put the game out of reach in the sixth inning, as we put up four more runs. We took advantage of an error by Mississippi College to score a run, and then Ryan Gasporra put the nail in the coffin by hitting a three run home run to the opposite field, which drove in Craig Littleman and Matt Creamer. Mississippi College scored a run in the eighth inning and two runs in the ninth, but it was not enough to overcome our lead. We won 10-5, and Lance Nugent earned his sixth win of the year. Nugent did a great job of fighting for eight innings and making sure that we kept our big lead. He attacked hitters and forced them to string hits together in order to beat us. Our defense was a little off in the ninth inning, but besides that we played a good game defensively. At the plate, Ryan Gasporra, Tyler Clakley, Kyle Morton, Jeff Schaffert, and Jemari James all had multi-hit games. That is the meat of our batting order, so I would say it’s a great day offensively when they all have multi-hit games.
Our offense stayed hot in game two of the series as Ryan Gasporra and Kyle Morton hit solo home runs in the first inning to give us a 2-0 lead. However, Mississippi College answered back with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. I will take blame for that, because I started off the inning by hitting a batter, walking a batter, and then trying to get an out at third on a bunt when I should have thrown to first base and made the easy play. Our offense picked me up though and scored four runs in the second inning. Craig Littleman hit a sacrifice fly to score Jemari James, and then Ryan Gasporra smoked a two RBI triple to right field. Tyler Clakley wrapped up the scoring with an RBI single that scored Gasporra. I settled into the game on the mound and the score was still 6-3 going into the sixth inning. Dan Lazarou added a sacrifice fly to score Jemari James and extend our lead to 7-3.
Unfortunately, Mississippi College scored four runs in the sixth inning to tie the game. They strung a few hits together and capitalized on an error, and as a result they tied the game. I was disappointed that I was unable to hold off their rally, but that’s baseball. Some days the ball finds defenders, and some days the ball finds holes. Grady Flournoy came on in relief and was able to get us out of the inning. Grady has done a good job of pitching since coming off of his knee and elbow injuries. Our offense answered back strong as Tyler Clakley blasted a two run homer to put us up 9-7. Keep in mind this was the seven inning game, so we were three outs away from winning. However, Mississippi College rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to steal a 10-9 win. Losses like that hurt badly, especially when we lead by as many as four runs late in the game. It was especially frustrating because we worked on playing defense with a two run lead earlier in the week in practice. But like I said, that’s baseball. Sometimes you win the close games, and sometimes you lose them.
Game three of the series was a little different, as freshman Taylor Henry made his first start of the season. Taylor has thrown a lot in relief for us this year, but we needed him to make a key start for us. Interestingly, he also pitched in relief in the first two games of the series against Mississippi College. The game remained scoreless until the third inning when our offense came through for five runs on seven hits. Matt Creamer got the rally going with a single, and he scored on a Ryan Gasporra two run homer, his third home run of the weekend. Consecutive singles by Tyler Clakley, Kyle Morton, Jeff Schaffert, Jemari James, and Marc Martinez led to our next three runs. It was really impressive to see our offense knock out seven consecutive hits in the inning. We scored again in the fourth inning when Matt Creamer scored on a wild pitch. We extended our lead to 7-0 in the fifth inning when a Matt Creamer RBI single scored Dan Lazarou, who led off the inning with a single. Mississippi College scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut our lead to 7-2, but our offense answered back with a single run in the sixth and seventh inning to push it back to a 9-2 lead.
Jemari James singled home Kyle Morton in the sixth inning, and a Ryan Gasporra RBI groundout scored Matt Creamer in the seventh inning. Mississippi College made it close in the seventh inning when they scored three runs, but Nic Parrott came in and slammed the door on their rally. We tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth inning when Dan Lazarou and Marc Martinez scored on a two RBI double by Matt Creamer, and Tyler Clakley’s RBI single eventually scored Creamer. We won by a final score of 12-5 and won the series two games to one. We received a great effort from our hitters, who pounded out sixteen hits in the game. Also, Taylor Henry was great in his start as he pitched five innings and only allowed one earned run. Matt Creamer led our offensive attack as he went 5-for-5 at the plate with three RBI and four stolen bases. Tyler Clakley, Jeff Schaffert, Jemari James, and Marc Martinez also had multi-hit games for us. Also, Craig Littleman played a key role in our offense as he got two sacrifice bunts down.
All in all, it was a pretty good weekend. Although we would have really liked to win all three games, we played well against a good team on the road. Our offense really swung the bats well, as we scored 31 runs in three games, and we cranked out seven home runs on the weekend.
Now, I will answer a question that has not really been fully addressed to our fan base. People have been asking, “Why aren’t we ranked since we have a record of 20-7?”, “Why is our conference record 0-0?”, “Why are we not eligible for the conference tournament or national tournament at the end of the season?”. I will do my best in this next paragraph to explain as clearly and briefly as possible the answers to these questions. We are in our first full year as a Division III program, therefore we are not eligible to be ranked or play in the post-season. This is not an American Southwest Conference (ASC) or D3baseball.com rule, this is an NCAA rule. We are going through a “re-classifying” period. As a result, we are not allowed to be ranked in the national polls or win the conference this year. However, when we move to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) next year, we will be eligible to win the conference tournament. Even though we are not eligible to win any big “prize” this year, we are still playing hard. We play for our teammates, our coaches, our pride, our athletic program, our four seniors, and ourselves. Although the media likes to paint us as a “Full D1” team, we only have 4 guys on baseball scholarship. Some of our best hitters and pitchers are not on any type of athletic scholarship (like every other DIII team). But rules are rules and we are still in the “in-between” stages of switching Divisions. Regardless of the media attention we receive (or lack thereof), we aim to win every game. There is no question in my mind that our team is strong willed and we will not quit as the season goes on. My hope is that our younger guys, who are not currently playing as much, buy into the system and choose to continue to work hard and develop their skills in practice and JV games. The younger guys are the future of our program, and by the time they are upperclassmen the program will be nearing full Division III stature.
I also wanted to give a quick shout out to all the former Centenary Gents baseball players in professional baseball right now. Six guys that were on the team my freshman year are now working their way up the ranks in the Minor Leagues. Dakota Robinson and Stephen Tromblee are pitchers who play for the Los Angeles Angels organization. Dakota is in High-A playing for the Inland Empire 66’ers, while Tromblee is in Low-A playing for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Alex Todd is a shortstop that plays for the Houston Astros organization and he is beginning the season in Low-A for the Lexington Legends. Boone Whiting is now playing in High-A for the Palm Beach Cardinals, a minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Seth Lugo, a pitcher in the New York Mets organization, is coming back from an injury and he will start the spring season in Extended Spring Training. Jimmy Hoyt spent a portion of Spring Training with the Oakland A’s, but an injury forced the A’s to cut him near the end of camp. However, Jimmy is trying out for a few teams in Arizona and will hopefully make a team in the next few weeks. You can go to milb.com and track their progress as their seasons progress.
This week we are preparing for a big series with UT-Tyler. They are ranked #23 in the nation, and they are a perennial power in this conference. They have earned the respect of all the teams in the region with their success, so we know they will be a tough opponent. We are looking forward to the challenge and it should be a great series this weekend in Shreveport.
Thanks for stopping by to check out the blog this week and come by next week to hear about our series with UT-Tyler. Go Gents!