Final "On the Bump" w/ Cole Thompson
Monday, May 23, 2011
Hey y'all and welcome back to the 20th and final edition of "On the Bump". This week I will talk about our series with Oakland and then reflect on the past season.

I am going to go ahead and jump right into talking about our games this past weekend, so that I can save some room to reflect on the season.

Our series with Oakland started on Thursday, which definitely threw off my internal calendar a little bit. We came out hot, leading 8-3 after 4 innings of play. From that point on, things went bad and we eventually lost 13-8. Our pitching was our downfall in this game. We struggled to "pitch with a lead". When I say that, I mean that when your team is ahead you need to do several things as a pitcher - throw strikes, get ahead in the count, and get the leadoff hitter of the inning out. We struggled to do these things, and as a result we let our lead slip away. On the other side, our offense became stagnant after taking a lead. When you get a lead like that, you have to keep your foot on their throat and not give them any hope of making the game competitive again. Peter Rajkovich and Tyler Neporadny had multi-hit games. Tyler went 4 for 4 and played solid defense on Thursday night. For those of you that don't remember, Tyler cracked his way into the starting lineup at Oral Roberts during the first weekend of conference play. Up until then, he hadn't been a regular starter in our lineup. However, Ty took advantage of his opportunity and really provided a spark in our lineup during conference play. The lesson here is keep working hard, because you will get your chance; and when you get your chance, seize the opportunity.

On Friday we came out and played a doubleheader with the Golden Grizzlies. At this point, both teams were eliminated from reaching the conference tournament, so we were playing for pride. Unfortunately, we did not play a great game in game 1 on Friday and we were defeated 8-3. Seth Lugo threw well, going 7 innings with 6 strikeouts while allowing 2 earned runs. Unfortunately, we couldn't get him much run support. We may have struggled to find some offense, but Kyle Morton did smash one of the farthest home runs I have seen hit this year. For those of you that have been to Shehee Stadium, his ball cleared the trees in right field and landed in the soccer field. RJ Talamantes, Morty, Matt Creamer, and Mark Gillean all had multi-hit games for us. Interestingly, those 4 guys recorded the only hits our team had in the game.

Game 2 was another tough game for us. We jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, but we found ourselves trailing 8-6 after 3 innings. Our pitching and hitting struggled in the back half of the game again. This game was similar to the first game of the weekend in my opinion. We let an early lead slip away, and then failed to make a run when the game was close. We eventually lost 14-7, but our offense provided 12 hits. RJ Talamantes (2 for 4, 2B), Peter Rajkovich (2 for 3, 2 RBI), Tyler Neporadny (2 for 4), Marc Martinez (3 for 3, HR), and Jeff Schaffert (1 for 4, HR, 2 RBI) provided the bulk of the offense in the game.

Saturday marked the last game of the year, and with that came Senior Day for Derek Dalzell and Justin Kraft. The game also marked the final athletic event for Centenary at the Division 1 level. I got the start, and for the 2 reasons mentioned above, I wanted to win that game more than ever. Kraft threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and he fittingly fired in a strike while standing on one leg. After that, Kraft and I traded jerseys for the game. I approached him with the idea the night before the game and he was fine with me wearing #8 for Senior Day. I thought it would only be fitting that #8 be on the mound for Senior Day and Centenary's last Division 1 game. In Saturday's season finale, I witnessed something that I had never personally witnessed in my 20 years of baseball. Senior Derek Dalzell played all 9 positions in one game. Also, Dazzle hit his first collegiate home run on Saturday. I think that was the loudest our dugout cheered all year when that ball cleared the fence in left field. I threw 6 innings while giving up 3 earned runs, and earned the final win for Centenary at the D1 level. Ryan Maldonado threw a solid 2.2 innings behind me, and then Dazzle fittingly closed the game for us, retiring the final hitter to earn the save. I don't think the game could have gotten better for Derek, and it was awesome to see his final collegiate baseball game end on such a high note. It was a great game for the team, Senior Day, and Centenary Athletics. I was glad the baseball team was able to close the Division 1 book for Centenary with a quality win.

On Sunday several guys from the team met at Matt Creamer's house for a crawfish boil and one last afternoon together before the summer. I must say that Trey Lavespere is quite the crawfish cook.

I have been thinking all week about what to say to recap our year, and honestly I still have no clue how I want to close this. So here is my stab at a quick review of the 2010-2011 Centenary Gents from the heart.

I showed up in August for my sophomore year and I really didn't know what to expect. I knew we had 8 guys from last year's team coming back, plus a majority of our coaching staff was back. In all honesty, it was really sad and tough at first adjusting to a new team. I don't really know how to describe the bond you have with teammates other than to call them your brothers. And all I knew when I showed up in August was that I had lost a lot of family from my freshman year's team. The first few weeks weren't much fun because I didn't know any of my new teammates, and I missed the teammates that I had bonded with the year before. Then we started to have team meetings, practice, workouts, and other team bonding events. I started to warm up to my new teammates and I learned that they were all great guys. We would hang out in the dorms, play basketball in the fitness center, or go get some extra practice in on the baseball field. All of a sudden, I felt right back at home with my "family away from home". One thing about college athletics that few people outside of the inner circle realize is that it is a gigantic time commitment. And whether you like it or not, you are going to spend hundreds of hours with your teammates. Then came the spring, which is the best time of the year. We opened the year with a win against Louisiana College. Then we had the opportunity to play a game at Texas A&M. From there we had the chance to go to Hawaii for a week and take on the Warriors. The Hawaii trip was something that our guys will never forget for the rest of our life, and we are all really thankful for coach Diaz and the coaching staff for scheduling the trip and making it possible. To say our team was well travelled this year is an understatement. We played as far West as Hawaii, as far South as the Texas/Mexico border against UT-Pan American, and as far North as Fargo, North Dakota. Heck, we got snowed out on May 1. We experienced highs and lows as a team throughout the year. We struggled through a slump in late March/early April, but we experienced a high when we recorded a walk-off win against IPFW on Easter Sunday. All in all, it was a really fun year and I enjoyed getting to know all of my new teammates. The friendships you form on the diamond last a lifetime, and it has been a great journey. I would also like to thank our coaching staff for taking so much time to help us grow on and off the baseball field - Mike Diaz, Jason Stephens, Pat Jolley, and Austin Jones. These guys have families, but they take the time to commit to helping us get better and to travel all over the United States with us.

To be honest, I don't know what the future has in store for the Gents. I'm not sure who will return or where everyone will be, but I do know the team is in good hands with our coaching staff. As for me, I am off to the Seattle, Washington area for the summer to play for the Kitsap Bluejackets of the West Coast League. I am really excited to spend my summer in Poulsbo, Washington playing ball in the Pacific Northwest. I have been in touch with my host family and I am excited to have a wonderful family willing to take me in for the summer.

To my readers, thank you for following Centenary baseball and supporting us through the highs and lows. I have really enjoyed writing this blog, and I hope you guys have enjoyed reading it as well. It was a great year and I will never forget the memories, trips, or friends I made this year.