On the Bump With Cole Thompson
Hello Gents’ fans and welcome back to the final edition of “On the Bump” for the 2012 season. It was a great year of baseball and a fun one as well. This week I will discuss our final four games of the season, review our season, and look forward to next year.
On Tuesday of last week we played a doubleheader against LSU Shreveport (LSUS). Like I said last week, they are the #1 ranked team in NAIA baseball with a 42-4 record. We were excited to welcome them to our house, and the weather provided a great day for baseball. Unfortunately, LSUS jumped out to a 12-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning. They took advantage of our inconsistent pitching and defense. When we play a quality team such as LSUS, we cannot afford to play as poorly as we did.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Tyler Clakley got our first hit of the game. Kyle Morton followed that at-bat by depositing a pitch over the right field wall for his 9th home run of the season to cut the lead to 12-2. LSUS answered back with three more runs over the next few innings as they took a 15-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. We scored three runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by a two-RBI triple by senior Kyle Morton. Jeff Schaffert knocked in Morton with a sacrifice fly later in the inning. We entered the final inning trailing 15-5, but we did not quit.
Matt Creamer hit a sacrifice fly to score Craig Littleman, and Ryan Gasporra followed with a two-run homer to cut the lead to 15-8. Jeff Schaffert continued the rally with an RBI double to score Tyler Clakley, and Jemari James followed with a two-RBI double that scored Schaffert and Morton. Next, freshman Jake Moore pinch-hit and recorded his first collegiate hit. He had a great at-bat as he battled and worked the count. I was really proud of him for stepping up in a pressure situation and continuing the rally. Unfortunately, our comeback effort fell short as we were defeated by a final score of 15-11. Like I said earlier, we just cannot afford to fall behind 12-0 early in a game. However, our late inning success provided some momentum going into game two of the doubleheader. Kyle Morton and Tyler Clakley each had three hits to lead our offensive attack.
LSUS started game two off by striking for two runs, but we answered back with two runs of our own. Matt Creamer led off the bottom of the first with a home run, which was the first of his career. We were all really excited for Matt because he has worked hard in the cages and the weight room ever since he came in as a freshman. Jeff Schaffert doubled to drive home Tyler Clakley to knot the game at two apiece. We struck again for three more runs in the bottom of the second, as we took advantage of a few walks and an error by the LSUS defense. In the third inning, Craig Littleman smoked a double into the gap to score Dan Lazarou to extend our lead to 6-2. Unfortunately, LSUS scored four in the fourth inning to tie the game at six.
LSUS added a solo home run in the fifth inning to take a 7-6 lead. Once again we took advantage of an LSUS error in the sixth inning to tie the game at seven. We had a chance to score a walk-off win in the seventh inning, but we were unable to score with a runner on third and less than two outs. LSUS took advantage of our inability to execute and they scored three runs in the eighth inning to take a 10-7 lead. We did not score in the bottom half of the inning, and as a result we suffered another tough loss.
I hate to lose close games, but hopefully we learned as a team that we need to compete and do the little things right when we play high quality teams. On the mound, Taylor Henry started for us and threw well. He worked around a few untimely errors and gave us a chance to win. Senior Lance Nugent threw well in relief, and I know the game meant a lot to him because he used to play for LSUS. It was probably the best that Lance’s mechanics had looked all season, and the ball came out of his hand really well. Matt Creamer went three-for-four and Jeff Schaffert went two-for-five to lead our offense.
On Thursday we had the opportunity to travel to Longview, Texas for a doubleheader with LeTourneau. It was the last games for our seniors, so the coaching staff changed our batting order to allow our seniors to bat 1-2-3 in the order. Dan Lazarou took advantage of the change and led off the game with a single. He eventually scored on an RBI Ryan Gasporra double. Tyler Clakley had a quality team at-bat as he grounded out to second, which allowed Jeff Schaffert to score to extend our lead to 2-0. In the second inning, Dan Lazarou cranked a two-run homer to left field to push the lead to 4-0. LeTourneau answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to close the gap to 4-3.
The score stayed there until the top of the sixth when Marc Martinez singled to right, which drove home Tyler Clakley. In the top of the seventh, Dan Lazarou scored on an error to make our lead 6-3. Tyler Clakley strolled up to the plate with the bases loaded, and immediately deposited a pitch over the centerfield wall to bust the game open and give us a 10-3 lead. Freshman Erasmo Valdez pinch-hit in the sixth inning, which made it his first at-bat of the season. On cue, he smoked a ball to left field for a single. We were all really happy for “Mo” because he works hard and is a good kid. You always love to see a guy be successful when he is given an opportunity. We ended up needing all those runs because LeTourneau scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh, but Lance Nugent closed the door to secure our 10-8 win.
Nic Parrott threw really well for us on the mound, as he went 5.2 innings and struck out a season-high six batters. Dan Lazarou took advantage of batting leadoff as he went three-for-four and scored three runs. Tyler Clakley went two-for-four, highlighted by his grand slam.
In game two, we took advantage of a few LeTourneau errors and took a 2-0 lead. However, the lead was short-lived as we handed them five runs. We didn’t throw strikes, balked, and committed two errors. Craig Littleman scored on a passed ball in the third inning to trim the lead to 5-3, and put us right back in the game. LeTourneau scored one in the bottom half of the inning and the score remained 6-3 until Craig Littleman hit his second home run of the season in the top of the fifth inning. Ryan Gasporra hit a mammoth home run to right center in the sixth inning, his ninth of the year, to cut the lead to 6-5.
Unfortunately, the bottom of the sixth inning did not go our way. We had a tailor-made double play ball, but the ball took an awful hop right over Matt Creamer’s head. The inning went south from there and LeTourneau busted the game open. They scored five runs to take an 11-5 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Dan Lazarou hit an RBI double in his final collegiate at-bat to score Craig Littleman. However, the game would end with us on the losing side, falling by a score of 11-6. Freshman Chase Clarke threw really well throughout the middle innings and kept us in the game. It was good to see Chase get out there and throw well because he hadn’t pitched in a few weeks. He controlled the strike zone and struck out seven batters. Dan Lazarou and Craig Littleman each had two hits to pace our offense.
The season didn’t end as we would have hoped, but it was still a successful season. We finished with a 24-15 record, but it was a little disappointing, considering we were 18-5 at one point. However, we built a firm foundation at the DIII level. Most teams like to peak at the end of the season, but we peaked around early March. I am not sure if being ineligible for postseason play had any affect on our late season struggles, but it was definitely a little frustrating knowing that we were not able to play in the conference tournament. Regardless, it was still a fun, successful season. We beat two DI teams (Louisiana Tech and Grambling), and we won series against McMurry and Mississippi College who are in the final four of our conference tournament. If anything, I felt bad for our four seniors because they were not able to play any postseason baseball in their final season. Jeff Schaffert, Dan Lazarou, Kyle Morton, and Lance Nugent left it all on the field this year, and we appreciate everything they did for our program this year.
As for next season, we return five out of eight starters in the field, and we will return all but one pitcher. I am excited for next year because it will be much different in the fall than my past two years. The last two years, our coaches have had to recruit nearly a whole new team each season due to players transferring out because of the transition to DIII. However, we will return a majority of our team, so we will not have to go through a steep learning curve in the fall. The team will know what is expected of them on the field, in the weight room, and in the classroom. Also, we will be eligible for the conference tournament next year in our new conference, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC). However, we are still not eligible to be ranked or go to the national tournament due to the reclassification process, per NCAA rules. The SCAC is a great conference, but the conference will be much different than last year. The old SCAC is splitting into two conferences. Teams currently in the conference such as Rhodes, Hendrix, Millsaps, and Birmingham-Southern will not be in our conference. Our baseball conference will consist of Centenary, Trinity, Austin College, University of Dallas, and Southwestern University. Schreiner and Texas Lutheran will join the conference in 2013-2014. I am excited for next season because I believe our hitting will still be good, and our young pitching staff will have another year of experience.
As for me, I am off to Alaska this summer to play in the Alaska Baseball League. I will play for the Peninsula Oilers in Kenai, Alaska. I am excited to play in the league and represent Centenary. There will be a lot of good talent up there and it is an honor to have the opportunity to play in the league. Ryan Gasporra is also going to a quality collegiate summer league. He will be in Albany, New York this summer playing for the Albany Dutchmen. A lot of our guys will also be playing in a local Shreveport summer league as well. My hope is that our younger guys really work hard this summer and come back in the fall ready to go. I have been around the college game for a while now, and I can honestly say that if you put in the work and effort, you make great strides on the field each year. However, I have also seen the polar opposite where guys take it easy for the summer, and they come back flat and behind their teammates preparation wise.
I appreciate all of you stopping by to read the blog this year. I enjoy writing it and I hope it is a way for friends, family and fans of Centenary baseball to gain an inside look into our program. I will be back next year for my senior season and writing the blog once again. I hope everyone has a good summer, stop by next season to check up on our progress. Until next year, Go Gents!