"On the Bump" w/ Cole Thompson
Monday, May 2, 2011
Hello everyone and welcome back to yet another week's inside look into the Centenary Gents 2011 season. This week you will get to hear about our Centenary athletic banquet, road trip events, and our series with the North Dakota State Bison.

On Monday (our usual off day), we ventured over to the Holiday Inn hotel in west Shreveport to attend the Centenary athletic banquet. It was a last "hoorah" for all of the seniors in athletics, as they were recognized for their accomplishments. We also had a guest speaker attend the event. Hollis Conway, an Olympic medalist in the high jump, who spoke to us about "transitions". These transitions include changes from the athletic field to everyday life, as well as transitions throughout life. At some point, you lose your athletic ability due to age, and at that time you must be able to transition to a "normal" life. Hollis Conway spoke to us about how he transitioned from world-class athlete to a Godly, family man. He was a great speaker and we really enjoyed hearing his experiences. He battled adversity (he was much shorter than the average high jumper in the Olympics), and hearing him talk about overcoming his issues inspired all the athletes in attendance.

We hit the field again on Tuesday to begin preparing for North Dakota State. We had a good practice as we went through PFP's and pop fly communication drills in the outfield. However, practice was cut a little short due to the flurry of storms that rolled through the southern United States. Luckily the tornadoes missed Shreveport, but we still received a deluge of rain.

On Wednesday we had our weekly intrasquad scrimmage. This scrimmage was different in the aspect that a majority of our coaching staff had meetings to attend to that night. Coach Jones ran the practice for us, and he did a great job. I definitely see a future in coaching for the young skipper.

Thursday was a very long travel day for us, as we woke up at 4 AM in Shreveport. We caught a flight from Shreveport to DFW, and then headed to Chicago from Dallas. We finally reached Fargo, North Dakota after an hour and a half flight from Chicago. It was a long day of travel, but the weather was surprisingly nice on Thursday afternoon in North Dakota. It was around 60 degrees and we were able to practice in shorts. The facility at North Dakota State doubles as an Independent League field, so the set-up was very nice. The stadium style seating and suites gave the ballpark a very professional feeling.

Friday marked the beginning of our crucial series with the Bison. Our offense put up a 4 spot in the top of the 2nd inning, which gave us a 4-3 lead after 2.0 innings. From there, Nic Parrott gave us a very solid start. He went 6.2 innings, and left with a 5-4 lead. However, unfortunate luck struck once again for us. The wind was blowing out to left field at around 30-40 mph. In the bottom of the 8th, a left-handed hitter for North Dakota State poked a ball down the left field line. Instantly, I hoped the ball would carry foul and not land down the line for an extra-base hit. The baseball gods had other ideas, as the ball carried in the wind and dinked off the left field foul pole for a 2-run home run. We rallied in the top of the 9th, but a Kyle Morton fly ball was killed at the center field warning track by the wind, and we lost 6-5. It was a tough loss, but that's just the way the wind blows sometimes. We have lost several close games in conference play, and it's not a fun feeling to be on the receiving end of such losses. Offensively, Matt Creamer, RJ Talamantes, Marc Martinez, and Peter Rajkovich all recorded multi-hit games for us. Our problem on Friday was that we didn't score after the 4th inning. We got their starter on the ropes, but we let him off and allowed him to regain his composure. Like I said in a previous blog, we really emphasize winning the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning. We did not do this on Friday, and as a result we lost the game.

Saturday was a new day for us, and the new day brought chilly weather. The weather fluctuated in the 40s most of the day, and the wind was fairly strong across the plains of North Dakota. In game 1, we were down 10-4 after 6.0 innings. We were not down though, because we came back from a similar deficit against IPFW last weekend. Our offense bailed out our pitching staff as they rallied to score 7 runs in the top of the 7th. We scratched out 5 more runs over the last 2.0 innings to come back and win 16-12. We won the final 3 innings by a score of 12-2. As you can see, it really is important to win the back end of a game. Derek Dalzell closed the game, throwing 2.0 innings and recording his second win of the season. Offensively, our whole lineup came through big. Every starter recorded a hit, at least one RBI, AND scored a run. It's pretty tough to lose any game when your offense puts up numbers like that. JoAnthony Cantu, who had 4 hits, including 2 doubles, led the offense. I don't mean to brag, but I mentioned during pre-game batting practice to Derek Dalzell that JoAnthony was swinging the bat really well during BP. Kyle Morton went 3-4 (2 doubles) with 4 RBI as well to pace the offense. Mark Gillean, RJ Talamantes, Jeff Schaffert, Tyler Neporadny, and Peter Rajkovich also had multi-hit games for us. As you can see, our offense has come a long way from just 5 weeks ago. I believe that the transition from hitting high school pitching to Division 1 pitching is the toughest jump to make your freshman year. I am really proud of our young freshmen that have learned on the fly, and are really figuring out what it takes to be successful at the highest level of college baseball.

In game 2, Derek Dalzell went back to the mound for us after finishing the first game of the double-header. I would like to take a moment and point out to y'all that "Dazzle" is the "glue-man" of our pitching staff. Daz holds the staff together. We can count on him to go out there and get the job done, regardless of the situation. Derek went out on Saturday and threw a combined 8.2 innings for us in the chilly North Dakota weather. He takes a bulldog mentality to the mound, and as a team we can feed off that mentality/energy and compete. He threw a great game for us, but we were defeated 4-3 after the Bison scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to record a walk-off win. Both runs were unearned, as we had a chance to put the game away with 2 outs, but failed to record the out. However, baseball is a team game and the responsibility of a loss does not fall upon that player, the losing pitcher, or any single player. There were several instances throughout the game where we failed to execute situational hitting, execute a pitch, or make the correct decision on defense. All in all, it was another tough loss, but I know that our team is mentally strong enough to recover and overcome the loss in our next game. Mark Gillean led the offensive attack, recording 3 hits, including a double.

Our Sunday game was cancelled due to cold/snow. We awoke to find a layer of snow on the ground. Call me naïve, but I never thought I would go to a baseball game in the snow on May 1. IT was unfortunate the game was cancelled because we were ready to come out and split a series with North Dakota State. As a result, we went back to the hotel for a little bit before heading out to the airport in Fargo. We left Fargo around 6 PM en route to Chicago O'Hare airport. Which brings us to right now, as I write this blog on our descent into the Windy City. From here, we will fly to DFW (arriving around 11 PM), and then bus to Shreveport. I know I have said this before, but days like today are when the life of a student-athlete is truly underestimated. We have finals beginning Monday morning at 8 AM, and we won't be back in Shreveport until 3 or 4 AM. We have guys vigorously studying on the plane, in an attempt to finish the semester strong. The academic year is almost over, but we still have 3 weekends of conference play left in order to reach the #4 seed and make the conference tournament. It is not out of the realm of possibility, but we need to win every series from here out in order to achieve our goal.

This next week we will take on the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds at Shehee Stadium. For those planning to attend, remember that this series will consist of a doubleheader on Friday and Saturday. Southern Utah sits right in the middle of the Summit League standings, so we must knock them off in order to climb up the rankings. They are a young, hard-nosed team that plays a similar style of baseball to us. I look forward to this weekend, although I wish we were going back to Southern Utah. Southern Utah is situated right on the outskirts of Zion National Park. Also, we get to fly into Las Vegas when we travel to Southern Utah. Regardless, this will be a very important weekend of baseball for us, and we would love to have a solid crowd come out and support us. I have included a video bonus this week for you readers. The video was shot on our return trip home to Shreveport. Props go out to Kelby Langston for manning the video camera. I hope y'all enjoy it. Go Gents!