February 17, 2010

Summer ball- part one (long)

Here’s part 2, could be a three parter as I might stop about halfway through it if it’s getting too long. This will be about my summer ball team. However first, a quick back story summer ball, about how I became the American Legion coach and my first 2 years on the job.

Firstly, legion ball is much different from high school ball. The competition is actually better. Most teams only have one or two practices and legion teams consist of players from anywhere from 1-4 high schools. Rosters consist of 18 players max and all 18 are generally needed because of vacations, injuries, and other random summer stuff. We play 22 games in about 6 weeks and it goes fast. Also, we hit with wooden bats in our district so games are much different; lower scoring, small ball, etc.

My first year I was supposed to be an assistant, about a week before the season the head coach called and said he wasn’t sure how much he was going to be there and if I would mind being the head coach. I accepted and quickly scrambled to get uniforms and everything else set up. He was still going to be my assistant so I figured I’d have some help. Fast forward to the first game, he hands me the roster and we only have 12 guys on it and 2 players have no business being part of the team. Then says he has to work and didn’t show up for a game the rest of the year. Our first game got rained out but the rest of the season was a disaster. We had some talented players but only 2 or 3 and went 6-16 and were tied for last. Again I was way too young for the job and had very little help, but was looking forward to improving the next year.

Fast forward to next year, I started rounding up the roster early. We were going to be very young but I figured it’d leave us something to build on and we’d have kids that showed up for every game. I still had some kids turn me down which was frustrating, but I had 16 kids on our roster when two kids from a neighboring team asked to join mine after they got cut. I did some quick research with their high school head coach and figured out they were both very good. One was a switch hitting SS, the other was a LH pitcher and 1B. If these guys didn’t come on the team we wouldn’t have won too many games. In fact we only won 4 games anyways and finished in last place. The last week was a disaster as we couldn’t get kids to show up and had to forfeit a game that directly affected the playoff race

It was at this point I realized I needed to start forming my team much earlier and from a wider range of schools if I wanted to be competitive. I kept in touch with my players from the year before and told them to keep an eye out for good players that are looking for a team. Fortunately they were able to come through for me and I received a break as a neighboring town wasn’t having a team so I lucked into a few more good players. In addition, I had arguably the most talented player in legion ball coming back for his second year. He was another switch hitting SS, hits very well and has an absolute cannon for an arm. He’ll probably get drafted in this year’s draft and if he doesn’t sign he’ll play division I ball at a very good school. Unfortunately he only could attend 8 games this past year as he was often on the road for showcases and tournaments.

In addition to that I had all my younger players from last year coming back including 4 CFs in the outfield, arguably two of the top 4 SS’s from high school ball to place up the middle and a few more young very talented players that were infield and DH types. Going into the season my goal was to make the playoffs, top four teams make it and generally 8 losses gets you into the dance.

Since I have to books I’m actually going to recap it game by game and this is already getting pretty long so I’ll break it up into 2 parts. We generally play four games a week; Wednesday, Friday, and doubleheaders on Sunday. Our first game was a DH and I didn’t have the best of luck as I was missing my ace on full rest as his team made the sectional final on Friday and the ace from my high school was sick. Fortunately, the first pitcher I talked about offered to throw as long as he could after throwing 65 pitches 2 days earlier. So here it goes, hope you guys enjoy it.

Game 1 away- This was against a middle of the pack team. Our ace was on shortrest like I said before and he had some bad luck early as he was on the wrong end of cheap hits and defense and they scored two in the first. In the third inning, still down 2-0 he gave up 3 more runs after a walk, walk and triple. I should’ve taken him out earlier, but nonetheless we were down 5-0 after 3. Down 5-2 in the seventh we were able to stage a comeback thanks to some bad defense and clutch hitting to tie it at 5. Once again we just couldn’t score in extra innings, but this time I wasted my game 2 starter as I used him for 4+ innings. We finally lost in the 11th inning 6-5.

Game 2 home- Same team similar result. This time our bats woke up early and we had a 5-2 lead going into the top of the fifth. Their half of the inning went like this; single, single, double, walk, single, F7, single, F6, double, F4. This was extremely deflating since they hadn’t really hit the ball hard the whole day until this inning and we were going to be 0-2 when we could’ve conceivably won both games. Also, if I didn’t use my number 2 pitcher we probably win game 2 as I think he beats this team with five runs of support. Instead we lost 10-5.

Game 3- home (0-2) – Against one of the weaker teams in the league, we were fortunate to get off to a good start when our leadoff hitter doubled to start the game. We scored one in the first, 4 in the second, and continued to swing the bats well and won 13-2

Game 4 (away) (1-2)- This was a great game against arguably the best team in the league. We had our ace going and their whole pitching staff was loaded. In the bottom of the first, with a runner on second, he tried to score on an infield single and was thrown out at the plate. In the top of the third we had the bases loaded with one out but the guy on first got picked off by the pitcher and then our hitter grounded out to short to keep the game tied.

In the top of the fifth, our 2 hitter started the inning off by reaching on an error to short and advancing to second on the throw. I didn’t bunt our three hitter and he grounded out to the pitcher, but our four hitter hit an RBI single through the right side to give us a 1-0 lead. They tied the game in the bottom of the inning and had runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out when our pitcher struck out the side. They kept bringing in hard throwing pitchers and we struck out 5 straight times to end the 6th and 7th. In the bottom of the 7th with a runner on 3rd and 1 out our ace was able to strike out their three and 4 hitters.

Now we were into our bullpen too. Neither team got anything going and the game was called after 9 due to lack of sunlight. We picked it up at a later date and despite escaping trouble in the 10th they won it in the 11th on a sac fly.

Game 5, 6 away, home (1-3)- The first game of this DH was tough to take. We jumped out to a 4-0 lead after 2 against a team who had very little interest in being there. Sadly our pitcher self destructed in the third and gave up 6 runs. We lost 6-4 and never really got anything going the rest of the way.

In game 2 we had our #2 going and felt confident, but baseball is a funny game. Both pitchers threw really well and we were scoreless going into the 6th. During the bottom half we were finally able to scratch one across when with 2 outs and runners at the corners the RF dropped a fly ball. However in the top of the 7th they scored 2 to take a 2-1 lead, so despite another great pitching performance it looked like we were going to drop to 1-5. However, the bottom of of order came through started the next inning off with a single, single, sacrifice. After an infield single scored one, the second one was thrown out at the plate. Then after a walk, our 3 hitter won the game with a single. We were still alive for the playoffs but barely and it was only 6 games into the season.

Game 7- away (2-4) Going into this game we were facing a hard throwing lefty who is going to a local D1 school this fall. I really thought we were going to lose as he’s very good and we had our #3 starter going. Then again, baseball is a funny game. In the first we took a 1-0 lead when with 2 outs our 3 hitter double and 4 hitter singled. We tacked on 3 more in the second and 2 more in the third. Their pitcher just went 2 1/3 allowing 5 runs. Our pitcher threw really well and we won 10-2.

Game 8 home (3-4) Player the same team as game 7, this was a much tougher game. We had our #2 on the mound who threw very well again. Scoreless into the fourth our inning went; single, walk, WP, sac fly, double, 6-3, single, single, P3, F7 to take a 3-0 lead. We tacked on 2 more in the 5th and our pitcher went the distance only allowing 4 base runners to win the game 5-0.

That took our record to 4-4. This is getting long again so I’m going to make this entry a 2 parter. Hope some people are enjoying these.

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