Well it's here; ball games are here, and the fun has begun. We did well,
but I thought that we were going to be 4-0 this weekend based on the way we
First of all, we played
State, and everyone got
their nerves taken care of as we panned everything out for the first game.
Everyone was just trying to get everything in sync. All the pitchers including
Cliff [Russum] threw great, and it was good to see him back.
Then we went down to
Mobile this weekend and had a big-time win
State. Scott Massey threw
great in a hard-fought game all the way around. Coach Burroughs made the comment
that it felt like a regional atmosphere with two good teams that were fighting
hard to get the win. After the game, everyone, including myself, became really
emotional. I was so proud of how our team played in that game.
Then we come back the
next day and play Stetson. We had a couple big innings against them, and it
seemed to kill them because it was probably 35 to 40 degrees with a little rain.
In those types of situations, you want to be the one to jump out there and get
the lead and not being playing catch up in those types of games. We won that
game, and Brad Owen had a great start.
On Sunday, Patrick
Ezell had a good start the latter half of his outing. I wish that we could have
had his first 60 pitches over because he wasn't feeling the strike zone out at
first, and he didn't feel the game until about the fourth inning. If we could
start over, we would have made a few changes that would have helped him make a
better start, but he still gave us five and two-thirds innings, which is not bad
at all if that is your shortest outing out of your starting pitchers after your
first four games. If we average that amount of innings out of our starters, we
are going to be talking to you in June in the state of
Early in the season, our
freshmen have been carrying us. They're new to these atmospheres but are the
ones who are getting the big hits. [Outfielder] Michael Ewing, [first baseman]
Bo Davis and [shortstop] Brian Dozier had a huge weekend for us. [Outfielder]
Luke Atkins obviously had the great first game against
State (3 for 3, one double,
HR, RBI), but he sat this weekend out. Those guys have done a good job for us,
and they have the advantage right now of being an unknown. Our opponents don't
know anything about them because they're freshmen, and while they are trying to
figure them out, these freshmen are ripping the ball because they do not know
how to pitch them yet. I don't even know how to pitch a few of them yet because
they are just that good of hitters.
It's going to be a
tough year for our hitters because we don't have anyone like a [former
outfielder] Jeff Cook who is going to hit 23 home runs, or a [former outfielder]
Ryan Frith who I think hit 22 one year. We are not going to hit a lot of home
runs. Coach Burroughs said that we only scored five out of 27 innings this
weekend, but we won two games, so when we had to, we produced two or three big
innings. The reason that we are not scoring in more innings is that we are not
hitting the long ball, but in our defense, it was a tough weekend. It was cold
and thick with the wind constantly blowing in our face. [Junior outfielder]
Toddric Johnson hit a ball that had hair coming off of it after contact. That
ball was screaming when it went to center field, and it didn't even leave the
park. So it was a tough weekend for hitters, but we certainly could have
overcome it. All I can say is that we can't wait until
South Alabama comes up here to play us.
Last weekend felt like
the longest weekend in that I don't think that I had ever caught three games in
one weekend. I may have, but I never caught the first three, and the first games
are the tough ones because your legs are still trying to get used to it. The
first weekend is really tough on everyone because being out there during
intrasquad, you only play four to six innings at a time and things aren't at
full speed. Being out there during a real game against another team is tough
because baseball is a long game, and nine innings is a long time to play. It is
going to be a fun year, but it's going to be a test of our character. It's going
to take a different guy each game, and we had that this weekend. Different guys
came through for us in different games and that is what we are going to have to
have for the whole year. I think that when you have a team that has a different
hero in each game, that is terrific.
Sunday's game was
chaotic to say the least. The crowd got into it,
South Alabama got into it, and then we got into
it. It was like a boxing match, where whoever was going to land the first punch
into the other fighter's mouth was going to be the one who was going to win the
game. They ended up getting that first punch, and we never got a good inning in.
I think we scored three in the second inning, and that was all we had for the
whole game. That's the thing about our team this year: We have been really good
with two outs, and about 80 percent of our runs have come with two outs. We need
to start building on innings earlier [get the guy on, get the guy over, and get
the guy in]. We have to execute by getting the leadoff man on base in any way
possible and allow the second guy do the hit and run the right way or get the
bunt down. If the leadoff man can steal second, that would be great also, but we
have got to have a lot of small ball stuff to work for us because right now, our
strength is our pitching. Our defense is above average and I say that because we
have all made our own little mental errors. Mine would mainly come from calling
pitches because sometimes I call the wrong pitch and I am kicking myself right
after I call it. Hindsight is 20/20, so if you could go back and do everything
again, it would be an easy game and we would win them all because we could see
how everything would pan out.
Week 1 is done, and we
can't go back. We are 3-1, but at the same time, if you would have asked any of
our players - including myself - if we would be satisfied after the first week
being 3-1, everyone would say no. We all want to be 4-0. We did well in the
tournament. We beat
State and Stetson, and let
South Alabama come away with a win against us.
South Alabama is one of our rivals, and it is like Oak Grove and
Hattiesburg playing against each
other: You just do not lose to them.
It was a hard-fought
game, but with the conditions - it seemed like it was being played at Lambeau
Field - not a baseball game. But you have to battle through all that, and I feel
that we did battle hard. We saw good things and had pitchers who got their feet
wet. Jonathan Johnston and Ben Wade both came in and pitched well for us, and we
are going to need those guys later on in the year. The fact that they got to get
in there in a tough atmosphere such as
South Alabama is going to be good experience.
South Alabama and their fans are screamers and yellers, and they are not afraid
to scream and yell at the other team and individual players, so having Ben Wade
get in there and throw a complete inning while people were shouting names at him
is going to be good for him.
Looking back at individual
performances during the South Alabama Tournament, Michael Ewing did extremely
well. I don't know exactly how many runs he drove in, but it seemed that every
time that I got on base, he would be the one knocking me in with a big hit or a
sacrifice fly. He also made some good plays defensively. I also thought that
Toddrick Johnson played well. You should have seen him playing center field on
Sunday. We have a left fielder and a right fielder, but I think that if need be,
Todd could have covered the entire outfield. He was flying all over the place.
He made a diving catch and just covered gap to gap. Bo Davis also had a good
tournament. He played well defensively in his first week to ever play first
base, and he has not messed up at all. He had a triple and a couple of big hits
that helped keep us in ballgames.
Our starting pitchers
did great as well. Scott Massey had an awesome pitching debut.
State is such a great
hitting team, and he kept them at bay. He gave up a homer on one bad pitch that
I probably should not have even called, so I already told him that I will take
the blame. But of course, he said that he should have thrown it better. I will
take the blame for the pitch call, but he did a great job on the mound. Then
Brad Owen in that nasty weather comes out and throws six good innings, and Ryan
Belanger follows him and pitches the final three innings and strikes out six.
Talk about a guy who was waiting to get his feet wet. I haven't even talked
about him yet and I don't know why because he was unbelievable. He didn't even
pitch in sleeves because he said he didn't throw hard enough in sleeves and
asked if Coach Palmer would mind. I told him that if he continued to pitch like
that, Coach Palmer wouldn't care if he pitched with sleeves ever again!
Our pitching staff was
the MVP for our tournament because they kept us in every game no matter what.
For the other teams, you have to look at their hitters because they did a great
job for their teams. Though we won the tournament, I feel that we should have
won all three games, and I am kind of disappointed that we didn't. Overall, I
was proud of how the team did at the tournament.
We are going to be
good, and I think that we just have to take games one at a time. Whether we play
Texas or Ole Miss, we have to play
hard. The next game is not going to be baseball weather again. It is going to be
cold, rainy and just basically a tough atmosphere. The weather is going to suck,
so we have to beat that. I feel that if you don't beat the weather then you are
not going to win the game. I think that we did a good job of beating the weather
this weekend. We didn't let it bother us one bit.
Valley will come in to
play us on Tuesday, and they are just the type of team that if you let them hang
around in the game, they will find a way to beat you. We have to look at it as a
baseball game regardless of who we are playing. We could be playing
High School and still have
to go out and play a good baseball game. You have to play nine innings no matter
who you play. We have to take care of Valley and then look forward to
Birmingham-Southern, who has a good
team. Scott Massey used to play for Tennessee-Martin, where they played
Birmingham-Southern every year he
was there, and he said that they were a tough team to beat. They are scrappy,
have good pitching and throw strikes. I'm not really familiar with them, and
don't know anyone who really goes there, but I will take Scott's word for it and
will believe that they probably will be a scrappy bunch. They're on the road and
are coming to our house with the mentality to beat us in our own backyard. We
have to hold the fort down. We don't lose at home, as home field advantage is a
big thing, and I think that we play better in
Hattiesburg at "The Pete."