"On the Bump" w/ Cole Thompson
Monday, May 16, 2011
Hello Gents' fans and welcome to the first "full-time summer" edition of "On the Bump". It has been a great week for the team because school is officially out for summer. From here out, it's just your teammates and baseball. This week I will give y'all an inside look into our week of preparation for Western Illinois.

We hit the field on Monday to begin preparation for the Western Illinois Leathernecks. Monday is usually our off day, but we were able to get out there because our off day occurred on Sunday after the Southern Utah series. It was a great day for baseball, especially since practice started at 1:45. Practice usually starts around 5:30 when school is in session. I don't really know how to describe it, but it's a really cool feeling to just play baseball and not go to school. It relaxes us and allows our guys to get out to the field and get lots of extra work in.

On Tuesday afternoon we had our weekly intrasquad scrimmage underneath the scorching Louisiana sun. I know almost all of my readers have been to Shreveport, but I would like to remind you that there is nothing quite like a hot Louisiana summer day. The humidity in Shreveport is the big killer though. Sometimes it feels like we are playing in a sauna out at Shehee Stadium. Our intrasquad went well though despite the humid day in Shreveport.

Wednesday was a busy day for us, as we practiced in the afternoon and then departed for Macomb, Illinois at midnight. To be honest, our Wednesday practice did not go very well. We lacked hustle, intensity, and the usual attitude we bring to the yard each day. However, we finished the practice on a better note. We knew we had to have a solid week of practice in order to defeat the Leathernecks because we are battling them for a Summit League tournament berth. We departed for Illinois around midnight on Wednesday. I know you are thinking, man that must be uncomfortable to ride overnight on a bus. However, we had the opportunity to take a "sleeper bus" on this road trip. I would like to say that the sleeper bus is one of the greatest things ever invented, especially considering the travel that the Summit League demands. It's going to be tough to describe the layout of the sleeper bus, but I am going to take a stab at it. The front and back of the bus are separated by a sliding door. In the front (the coaches' area), there are 2 couches and a table. These couches and tables can be easily transformed into 7 beds. The restroom is also located up front. In the back, there are 3 couches, 3 tables, and 2 seats. We have 3 televisions in the back that are equipped with satellite television and a DVD player. The TVs also have plug-ins, which allows our guys to bring their Xbox's and PS3's in order to play "MLB The Show" or "Call of Duty". Similar to the front, the back of the bus can be transformed into 19 beds as well. It is a pretty legit set-up, which makes the road trip so much easier because we can sleep throughout the night. The beds are triple stacked, with the bottom being the most spacious. Most of the older guys tend to grab a bottom or middle bunk because they are more comfortable. The top set of beds fold down from the roof of the bus similar to a luggage compartment on an airplane.

We drove through the night, stopping for breakfast just outside of St. Louis, and arrived in Macomb around 2 on Thursday afternoon. It was an abnormally hot day in Illinois as the temperature hovered around 90 degrees. I wish the weather could have stayed like that all weekend. We practiced at Western Illinois, and then headed over to our hotel in Burlington, Iowa. Yes, you read that correctly. Our hotel was about an hour from the campus due to Western Illinois hosting the Summit League softball tournament and graduation over the weekend. On this trip I was roommates with JoAnthony Cantu and Kelby Langston. I hadn't had the opportunity to room with Jo before this trip, which was a shame because JoAnthony had Kelby and me laughing pretty hard all weekend. Road trips are great because they give you a chance to learn more about guys on the team that you don't know as well.

Game 1 of the series took place on Friday, and Nic Parrott got the start for us again. Nic has done a great job as our Friday starter because he really goes out there and pounds the strike zone. This game was no exception as he went 7 innings and earned his second win of the season. Our offense provided a huge spark by delivering a 6 run 4th inning. Despite the big inning, we only led 7-6 going into the 9th inning. In the top of the 9th, Kyle Morton belted his 5th homer of the year to add an insurance run. I would like to give a shout-out to coach Pat Jolley for single-handedly providing Kyle Morton with the necessary drills in order to hit that home run. Seth Lugo slammed the door as he struck out the side looking in the bottom of the 9th to earn his second save of the year. It was clutch for us to take the first game of the series because at this time of the season, every win is big-time. One stat that really stands out to me from Friday's box score was that 8 out of our 9 hitters recorded an RBI. This tells me that we had a lot of guys come through in the clutch.

We were supposed to play a doubleheader on Saturday, but inclement weather only allowed us to play 1 game. The weather was pretty bleak, as it was around 50 degrees with a constant drizzle falling from the sky. To keep things short, we played like the weather - miserable. We struggled in all facets of the game and the final score reflected that. We only recorded 3 hits, made 3 errors, walked 3 hitters, and hit 6 batters. It's tough to win games when you put up numbers like that, and as a result we lost 9-1. Two highlights from the game came from Ryan Maldonado and Peter Rajkovich. "Maldo" threw 5.1 innings in relief, only allowing 1 run, while Pete recorded a hit to stretch his hitting streak out to 9 games. One interesting note from the game was that I saw the "game clock" rule go into effect for the first time in college baseball. The rule states that a team has 90 seconds between half-innings to warm up and be ready to go. If the rule is broken, then an automatic ball is called. It's tough for a catcher to get all their gear on and warmed up in 90 seconds if they are at the plate or on the bases when the last out is made. However, the umpire felt that we were taking too long and called an automatic ball. I promise that you will not see that rule enforced very often.

We came out on Sunday and played a double-header to wrap up the series at Western Illinois. It was Senior Day for the Leathernecks as they honored their 8 seniors, but only 7 were in uniform. For those of you that don't know, Western Illinois had a pitcher (Junior year of college) that died in a motorcycle accident two days before they were supposed to come down to Shreveport and play us last year. It was really neat that Western Illinois honored him along with the Western Illinois seniors in the pre-game ceremony. His parents were in attendance and it was really cool to see that they still supported the team even though their son had passed away.

In the first game on Sunday we sent our ace Seth Lugo to the mound. Lugo threw a complete game, but the effort was spoiled, as we were defeated 4-1. Lugo struck out 5 while allowing no walks. He definitely threw well enough to win, and we wasted a good chance to climb up a game in the Summit League standings. We were barely outhit by the Leathernecks (11-10), but we just couldn't come through with a clutch hit at the right time.  Jeff Schaffert, Mark Gillean, and Peter Rajkovich all recorded multi-hit games for our offense.

In game 2, I started for us and threw well. The offense had my back as junior Kyle Morton blasted a 2 run bomb to right field in the first inning to spot us a 2-0 lead. Senior Derek Dalzell made a spot-start at 3rd base for us and he played excellent defense behind our pitchers. In the second inning a Western Illinois batter hit a chopper up the middle. The ball tipped off my glove and died into a slow spin in the grass just behind the mound. Dazzle swooped in behind me, barehanded the ball on the run, and threw it to first base in one motion to record an out on a bang-bang play. It was an awesome play and it really helped me settle into a groove on the mound. Kelby Langston came in to relieve me in the bottom of the 5th with 2 outs and the bases loaded as we held onto a 3-1 lead. Kelby threw a solid 2.1 innings to end the game to record his first win of the season. I guess it's ok that Kelby vultured my win because he is one my best friends on the team. However, the win did not come easily for us. With the score tied at 3 in the 7th inning, we placed runners at 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Birthday boy Mark Gillean delivered a clutch hit that brought home both runs, which provided us with the necessary margin to bring home a 5-4 victory. The birthday boy was our only hitter with multiple hits, and he also drove in 3 runs. I know it was your birthday Mark, but thanks for giving us the present today by helping out the offense. It was a good team win and it allowed us to stay in the running for a playoff spot in the Summit League tournament. I will say this, winning the last game of the series makes the bus ride home a lot more fun.

This next week we will welcome the Oakland (MI) Golden Grizzlies to Shehee Stadium for the final series of the regular season. We must sweep this series in order to have any hope of reaching the conference tournament. We also need a few other things to go our way, but most importantly we have to win every game. We don't need to worry about "uncontrollables". Our focus will be winning each game this weekend one at a time. Hopefully the other situations fall our way, but we know that we can only control what takes place on the field in Shreveport, Louisiana next weekend. "Senior Day" will take place on Saturday following the final game of the season. We will be honoring our two seniors, Derek Dalzell and Justin Kraft (you can read their Q&A's in the January 17th edition of "On the Bump"). As you know, Kraft has been injured most of the season, but he had a stellar career on the diamond for the Centenary Gents (see March 14th edition of "On the Bump"). As for Derek, he has been a true team leader this year. I know it has been tough for him at points this year dealing with so many young guys, but he has handled it extremely well. He has also played all 4 years for the Gents and put up very solid results each season. It would be great if y'all could come out to Saturday's game and stick around for the post-game ceremony to honor our 2 seniors. Just a reminder, the games this weekend will be played on Thursday, Friday, Saturday instead of the usual Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I hope to see y'all out at Shehee Stadium this weekend to cheer us on as we make one final push for a spot in the conference tournament. Go Gents!