"On the Bump" w/ Cole Thompson
Monday, April 25, 2011
Hello Gents nation and welcome back to your Centenary baseball headquarters. I am glad to tell y'all that we had a great week of preparation, which led to great results. This week you will see how we broke up our normal practice routine, and then carried over our success to the weekend.

We had an off day on Monday after our tough series with South Dakota State. The day off gave us a chance to really reflect on the games from the previous weekend and think about how we could make ourselves better in order to close out a game. On the academic side, this was a busy week for our guys because it was the last week of school before "dead week" (week before finals).

Tuesday is usually our intrasquad scrimmage day, however we did not intrasquad due to a majority of the coaching staff being on the recruiting trail. We had a solid round of PFP to start practice, followed by tons and tons of batting practice. The hitters took part in a game where they focused on hitting the ball gap-to-gap. The game went well, and I really believe this loosened up our guys and fueled their confidence heading into the weekend.

With the coaching staff back, we scrimmaged on Wednesday and had a solid scrimmage. Each relief pitcher threw an inning, which began with a runner at second base. This really forced our pitchers to focus up and pitch with the mentality that we can't allow that runner to score. All in all, it was a good scrimmage for us in every aspect of the game. Our hitters battled, our pitchers made pitches, and our defense played well.

We showed up for practice on Thursday ready to go through our normal practice routine. However, coach Diaz and the rest of the coaching staff had a better idea. We headed over to the softball field, where we were split into 2 teams and had a best-of-3 wiffle ball World Series. The coaches told us we were a good practice team, but we just needed to learn to relax and play our game. Unfortunately, my team lost the series two games to one. Jeff Schaffert led his team to victory, hitting a walk-off 3 run homer.

After a fun and solid week of practice, we came out firing on all cylinders on Friday night. Nic Parrott started for us on the mound, and he threw a solid 4.1 innings. We put up 3 runs in the first inning, powered by wiffle ball hero Jeff Schaffert's 2 run homer. After 3 innings, we led 13-2. Our hitters really showed up ready to hit and the scoreboard reflected that. It really pumps you up as a pitcher to see your offense come out and swing the sticks like that. Sam Martin and Kelby Langston finished the game on the mound for us. They both threw well and allowed us to finish the game as 18-8 victors after 7 innings. While the game doesn't appear to be close to the outside eye, IPFW made it a 13-8 game after the top of the 6th inning. However, our team really responded well to the challenge and put up 5 runs over the next 2 innings. It was really good to see us respond to their offensive run, and answer back with a knockout punch. I normally highlight our best hitters from each game, but I really don't even know where to start here. Our offense pounded out 23 hits, with 7 of those going for extra bases. Here is a shout-out to our whole offense on a solid week of preparation, and following that up with a huge performance on Friday night. I'd like to give another shout-out to Nic Parrott for earning his first collegiate win. I vividly remember my first collegiate win, and I know that is a moment nobody can ever take away from you. He has been throwing really well for us lately and he deserved the "W".

On Saturday we carried over our blue-collar mentality, and rallied in the later innings to win 8-4. I really liked the fact that we overcame a 4-3 deficit going into the bottom of the 7th to win 8-4. Coach Diaz had told us it would take winning a close game like this in order to get us rolling. Seth Lugo started and threw 6.1 innings for us. He threw well enough to give us a chance to win, and he battled to keep us in the game. Ryan Maldonado, who also earned his first collegiate win of his career, relieved him. Derek Dalzell came in and closed the game for us, earning his 1st save of the year. Once again, our offense busted out for 15 hits. RJ Talamantes and Kyle Morton both had 3 hits, while Mark Gillean, Peter Rajkovich, Tyler Neporadny, and Dan Lazarou each collected 2 hits apiece. However, I think one aspect of our game that has gone far too long without mention is our defense. We were a little shaky at the beginning of the year, but we are playing very solid defense right now. RJ Talamantes and Matt Creamer have really locked down the left side of our infield, and the rest of the crew has followed suit right behind them.

In game 3, we came out a little flat and failed to execute. We fell behind 8-1, and never really mounted a comeback. Our hot offense was kept in check, as they scratched out 6 hits. Tyler Neporadny accounted for 2 of those hits. Another highlight was that Zach Christ and Trey Lavespere both came out of the bullpen and threw well for us. It was a disappointing loss for us, considering we had the momentum from the first two games. But one thing you have to learn about our conference series is that "It's all about Sunday". I mean this because Sunday is a make or break day for every series. You can complete a sweep, avoid a sweep, tie up a series, or go win a series. We entered Sunday up 2 games to 1, and we really wanted to take this series from IPFW on our home field.

Sunday's game began on a sour note, as we trailed 4-0 before we even came up to bat. Our starter didn't have his best stuff, but myself, Kelby Langston, and Nic Parrott threw well out of the bullpen to keep the game within striking distance over the middle innings. We were trailing 9-2 entering the bottom of the 7th. We could have easily "mailed it in" and given up on the game. The easiest thing in the world to do is quit on something. Quitting takes zero effort. Quitting can even be justified with excuses and legitimate reasons at times. When someone quits, they can even lie to themselves by saying that what they quit on wasn't that important. However, our team took ownership of our level of play and rallied for 6 runs in the 7th inning to bring the score to 9-8. In the top of the 8th, Seth Lugo came in to pitch for us and he induced a fly ball to get us out of a jam. We failed to score in the bottom of the 8th inning, and Derek Dalzell threw a scoreless top of the 9th for us. As a result, we entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 9-8. Dan Lazarou singled to start the inning, and then Marc Martinez walked to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Fellow pitcher and card-carrying member of the "Bad Body Bullpen" Ryan Maldonado pinch-ran for Martinez. Seth Lugo executed a situational at bat very well, as he grounded out to second base, but pushed the runners over to 2nd and 3rd. After an intentional walk and a pop out, RJ Talamantes came to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs. With the game on the line, he roped a 3-1 pitch into the left-center field gap to plate the winning run ("BBB" member Ryan Maldonado). It was an AWESOME win for us. I can't even explain how sweet it was to rally back from a 7 run deficit in the 7th inning to win on a walk-off hit. Derek Dalzell earned his first win of the year, which gave him a win and a save on the weekend. Marc Martinez shined at the plate, going 3 for 4 (2 doubles) with 3 runs batted in. RJ was 3 for 6 with 4 RBI, and Derek Dalzell contributed at the plate as well, going 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI. It was a great team win and a storybook ending to a great weekend of baseball. I really believe this team turned the corner this weekend. I mentioned last week that we were very, very close to figuring it out, but I think that this weekend was the moment that will turn our season around. We have finally gelled as a team, with each person accepting their role and doing the necessary duties to help push this team towards victory.

Next week we will travel to Fargo, North Dakota to take on the North Dakota State Bison. I am looking forward to the trip, but it will still be pretty chilly up there even though it will be April/May. They split a hard fought series with Oral Roberts this past weekend and currently sit in 3rd place in the Summit League standings. Once again, we are ready to face the challenge of a solid ballclub and we are excited to continue our winning ways and work our way back up the Summit League standings. Our goal is still to make the conference tournament, and we must be in the top 4 of the standings at season's end to obtain that achievement. However, we just have to approach each game one at a time, and take care of business like we know we can. Thank you for coming out to support us this past weekend. It was so nice to play 2 weekends in a row at home. Come back next week to hear about our trip to Fargo, as well as a summary of our Centenary athletic banquet. Until next week, go Gents!