Friday, March 10, 2017

Freshman Baseball Update, Game 2

The second game of the freshman baseball season continued a worrisome trend.  The boys suffered a shut out again, generating only one hit.  In the 2-0 loss to Redwood of Marin County, we once again got a solid pitching effort from three players, who held the game at 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning when Redwood managed to push across an insurance run.  In the meantime, our boys received a lot of walks, but were unable to put a bat on the ball when we needed it most.  We also had two runners thrown out attempting to steal, and another runner picked off first base by the catcher.  We also had five errors in the field (four by one player who had a particularly rough day, but who also  made three good defensive plays, and pitched a very effective inning at the end of the game).

Michael had a very quiet day, with two strikeouts and a fly ball to center field.   He came up with runners on second and third and one out midway through the game, a prime opportunity for him to put some runs on the board.  Unfortunately, the first pitch skimmed off his helmet.  He wasn't hurt, and he got on base, but it took the bat out of his hands.  The next batter grounded to the pitcher, who got the force at home for the second out.  The catcher threw wildly to first to attempt the double-play, but the right fielder made a perfect throw back to home plate to get our next runner who was attempting to score from second on the play.  Just like that, our best chance to score evaporated.

Redwood's starting pitcher was a teammate of Michael's over the summer on a team designed around clients of a pitching coach.   This pitcher was one of them.  He and the teammate who relieved him both threw very hard.  Other than Michael, who played against JV and varsity pitchers over the summer, it is likely that none of the other boys on the team had ever faced velocity so consistently high.  Although they would never admit it, they appeared intimidated, taking called strikes throughout the game, including called third strikes.   Taking a called third strike, an almost unforgivable sin, has also been an odd hallmark of this group of boys for years. Somehow, in their first days of facing kid pitchers when they were nine years old, it became imprinted on them that it was preferable to wait for a walk then to attack a pitch.  The aggressive players will continue to move up; the passive players will eventually find themselves on the sidelines.

Michael had no better luck with Redwood's pitchers than anybody else (and he went down swinging on his strikeouts).  He did make solid contact with one ball when he flew out to the center fielder, which was probably the hardest any of our guys bit a ball in the game.  His strikeouts were quick and surgical, showing that as effective as he can be against some of his peers, he is still not quite ready to face next-level pitching.  He kept his head in the game on the defensive side, though, and handled the one ground ball that came his way cleanly.  It was a slow roller that he had to charge to field on the infield grass; it took his strong arm to beat the batter by half a step.

It is fair to say that the rust should be off by now.  The boys have had several weeks of practice and a couple of games.  This weekend they have a doubleheader against one of their nearby rival high schools, which will have a roster full of players they will face for the next four years.   If our pitchers continue their excellent performance and our gloves settle down a little, all we need to do is start putting the ball in play to start seeing some success.   We know we have some talented hitters, and we will be getting one of our best hitters back after he missed the first two games.

By tradition, the boys wore their uniform caps at school on game day, which gave them all a nice little boost of recognition and status in the halls.  Win or lose, it is a joy seeing these boys band together to compete for their school. 

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