As I’m talking at practice right now, I just want it to be known
that our coaches are fielding ground balls out there! I’m watching Coach Berry
field ground balls right now! Let it be known that we have an athletic coaching
staff, and that’s quoted!
As far as things with us, last week started off well with a win against
Mississippi Valley State. Our program has come to a point where we expect to win
every game against any opponent, but we sometimes expect some teams to back down
against us - Mississippi Valley State doesn’t do that.
They came out and attacked us, swinging the bats well and forcing us to scrap
a little bit once we got out there to a lead in that game. We ended up winning
the game 11-3, but we had to fight a little harder than we thought we had to. We
shouldn’t ever overlook anyone. I think that we’re a great team, but we have to
play to our potential all of the time in order to give ourselves the best
opportunity to win.
With the weekend series against Birmingham-Southern, we knew that the weather
was going to be bad on Friday night. We wanted to get the first game in, as we
felt like Saturday’s game was going to get postponed because of the rain. We
knew we had to hustle with the first game to get it going, but then the rain
started setting in around the third or fourth inning.
But that is no excuse of how we performed offensively. We didn’t execute, we
had runners in scoring position a lot of times, we didn’t pitch as well as we
could and we didn’t do our jobs, which ultimately led to our 8-4 loss.
We were in that game, and we didn’t play well, which is a good sign to me. We
played the worst that we’ve played all year, and hopefully that was the worst
that we will play all year, and we still had an opportunity to win the game. We
had at-bats where we had the tying run at the plate, and were one swing away
with a home run or a “gapper” to make things interesting. So, being in a game
that you’re playing your worst in, and still having a chance, is the only
positive that you can take from that loss.
We were motivated, to say the least, after that game. Coach Palmer motivated
us, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Certain people motivate in
different ways, and Coach Palmer does it differently all the time. Sometimes
he’ll say three or four words and that’s all you need to be motivated for the
next time; and sometimes he’ll talk for five or 10 minutes, and then he’ll be
done. He finds all kinds of ways to motivate us. It was a more lengthy talk
after our loss on Friday night, but needless to say, we were motivated.
So what did we do after that first game? We came out and 10-runned them (13-3
in seven innings per NCAA 10-run rule in the first game of Sunday’s
doubleheader). Regardless of what method he used, it worked. Our team needed
that talk after the way we played.
Coach Palmer addressed it all on Friday, saying everything that needed to be
said. No player needed to talk to another player because Coach Palmer addressed
us as a team, and not as individuals. We had team issues, not individual issues,
and those needed to be addressed. Pitchers had certain issues, and hitters had
certain issues. Coach Palmer’s job was well done because things turned around,
and what he said worked.
Having Saturday’s game rained out was a good thing for us. Coach Burroughs
did a great job with us on Saturday. He had us come out here and hit, but
instead of doing drills, he told us to do whatever we wanted that made us feel
good. I’m glad we didn’t do any drills because there are certain drills that
people can’t stand to do. There are some drills that I can’t stand doing; they
make me better, but I hate them because it exploits some of my weaknesses. So
instead of drills, we hit and felt good and came out the next day ready to rip.
We won the first game of the doubleheader and we thought, “well, we just
10-ruled them,” and almost fell back into thinking that they were going to lay
down for the final game.
But Birmingham-Southern came out with the mentality that though they were
just 10-ruled, they were going to give everything that they had, which is what
they did in the next game. They jumped out to an early lead, but we weathered
the storm and came back to win 6-5 after being down 5-0 early.
Ryan Belanger came in after Brad Owen and pitched well, though Brad didn’t
pitch badly. They were able to hit pitches in certain situations like through
the 6-hole, which is where Brian Dozier plays at shortstop, where he was playing
at double-play depth and wasn’t able to get to the ball. So it was things like
that. It wasn’t Brad’s fault, but Belanger was able to come in and get those
guys out with a great breaking ball, was able to locate his fastball and did
what he had to do to get us to the seventh inning.
In that inning, we were able to rally behind our mighty freshmen, who are
doing extremely well, in Bo Davis, Michael Ewing, Luke Adkins and Dozier. They
bring so much energy and are doing such a great job for us, and we were able to
rally behind them. And with them setting things up, Coach Palmer was able to
bring Daniel Best in for what would be his longest opportunity to get a save in
his career. He faced nine hitters, which is the minimum number of hitters that
you can face in a three-inning outing, and he got nine of them out. If that’s
not efficient, effective or whatever you want to call it, I don’t know what is.
I think that his name is fitting in Best, because he is the “best” in the
country. I say it, and though I’m not meaning to build him up, he’s that good.
We had some interesting things happen on Sunday. There was a ball hit over
the left-field wall in the first game on Sunday that was initially called a home
run before it was overturned as a foul ball that caused me to get a little
worked up. I didn’t say anything to offend the umpire, and didn’t use any
profanity; I just told him that the ball was foul. I wanted to plead my case
that the call should be overturned.
Coach Burroughs came out of the dugout to make sure I didn’t get too into it,
but I was alright. Coach Palmer came out and asked me what I thought, and I told
him that it was a foul ball. He listened to me and went to the umpire with what
he thought was right. He’s professional about that and won’t go crazy for no
reason. He didn’t even go crazy out there and stayed calm. I know Birmingham-Southern’s
coach was mad, because it took three runs of the board for them. If you think
about it, we could have been down 3-0 in that game and things could have gone
Scott Massey, who was pitching that game, was able to rally around the call
going our way and was able to get that guy out after the call was changed. We
only gave up one run in that inning where we could have given up more. That call
marked a big turnaround for us. I normally don’t get like that, but if I do then
I probably feel strongly that the wrong call was made. So if my arguing helped,
Though some of our veteran hitters have been struggling lately at the plate,
the funny thing about it is that we’ve only played eight games out of 56, plus
possibly more with postseason, which could be around 60 plus games that we could
play this year. History has proven that baseball is not a sport that you judge
over a five- to 10-game period; you judge it over the long haul. It’s a game of
strengths and comforts. I feel comfortable that I’m going to come around.
It’s a matter of fact that Marc Maddox is going to come around, as he’s going
to hit around .300 this year. He is one of the greatest hitters that I’ve ever
seen. Another guy who’s not been producing like expected is Trey Sutton, and
he’s going to start hitting better soon. The fact that we’re hitting right under
.300 as a team (.298) is a positive sign for our team when three of our core
veteran type players in me, Marc and Trey are not doing well right now. So if
the freshmen continue to do what they’re doing, and we come around, we could hit
.350 as a team this season.
With the freshmen doing so well, it takes pressure off of us. Trey, Marc and
I have all talked about it. We don’t have to be as pressed at the plate to make
a play because all we have to do is hit and not feel that we have to do it all
by our self. What those freshmen are doing for this team is a tremendous thing,
and over time we’re going to bounce back at the plate as well.