Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hello everyone and welcome back to the post-Mardi Gras break edition of “On the Bump.” We are slowly getting back into the flow of going to classes again after a relaxing week off from school. This week we will take a look at how we spent our spare time over the break, how we played in our 3 game series against McMurry and briefly discuss our upcoming series with ASC opponent Hardin-Simmons.

It was great to have the past week off from school. The time off gave all of our guys a chance to rest, relax and just focus on baseball for a week. We started practiced at 2:30 in the afternoon each day of the break, which is about 3 hours earlier than our practice time when school is in session. The 2:30 p.m. practice time was great because it gave us a chance to sleep in a little bit, and then the practices would finish around 6 at the latest. Another reason I loved the break was that the school cafeteria was closed; therefore the coaches fed us lunch and dinner each day. We typically had sandwiches for lunch, and for dinner we either ate somewhere in town or enjoyed burgers and hot dogs cooked and prepared by the coaching staff.

As for the actual practices, things went fairly smoothly. You could definitely tell that the energy level was a little higher than normal. I think this is definitely attributed to the fact that we did not have classes and homework hanging over our heads. One thing that we need to improve on is our depth. Our second team struggled in our scrimmages with their defense a little bit. I know they are young, but you are only as good as your weakest link. If a starter is injured or unable to play, we need those guys to be able to jump into the lineup and produce immediately. Our pitchers did a better job of attacking the strike zone and challenging hitters in our midweek scrimmage. The number of walks likely decreased because Coach Stephens (our pitching coach) told us that we would have to run 10 poles for every walk we had.


We started off game one of the series on Friday night with Lance Nugent on the mound. I know that one of Lance’s coaches from back home passed away during the week, so this game had some extra meaning to it for Lance because he wanted to dedicate it to him. The game started off a little shaky as McMurry hit back-to-back doubles to start the game and take a 1-0 lead. In the top of the 2nd, McMurry struck for two unearned runs to extend their lead to 3-0. After the 2nd inning, Lance put the McMurry bats on lockdown. We sneaked a run across in the bottom of the 2nd as Jemari James scored on a Nic Parrott double. Ryan Gasporra led off the bottom of the 3rd with a triple, and he scored a few pitches later on a wild pitch. Nugent threw a 1-2-3 top of the 4th, which swung more momentum in our direction and we took the lead for good by scoring three runs in the bottom of the 4th. Singles by Marc Martinez and Nic Parrott allowed a ground-rule double by Matt Creamer to plate one run and an RBI groundout by Ryan Gasporra gave us a 4-3 lead. Tyler Clakley singled home Creamer and we never really looked back from that point. We tacked on another run in the bottom of the 8th on a Ryan Gasporra double to make it 6-3 and that was the final score. Nugent threw a complete game for us while striking out 10. He could have folded after they scored three in the first two innings, but instead he battled and kept us in the game. At the plate, Matt Creamer, Ryan Gasporra, Tyler Clakley, Marc Martinez and Nic Parrott had multi-hit games for us. I found several positives from the opening game with McMurry. One, Nic Parrott played very well in centerfield and at the plate while filling in for an injured player. Parrott did not get many reps with the starters throughout the fall, as he was one of our better pitchers. However, he did an excellent job of filling in for a player when we needed him. As I said earlier, we are only as good as our weakest link. In this case, Parrott came through clutch when we needed him. He could have used excuses or been discouraged by not practicing much with the starters, but he fought hard and earned himself a spot and he took advantage of the opportunity. Another thing I enjoyed was Lance Nugent’s performance on the mound. Lance is a senior pitcher for us, but this is his first year to play for Centenary. He played at two junior colleges before playing at LSU-Shreveport and eventually joined us at Centenary. He has been through some adversity in his personal life the past year, including the passing of his old high school coach in the past week. However, he has always shown up with a great attitude and a team first mentality. On Friday night, he proved to everyone in attendance and who follows Centenary baseball that he can make a big impact for our team on the mound. I know it meant a lot to him, especially considering the fact that he did not get to play last spring. He has been waiting about two years to prove that he can pitch at that level, so I know Friday’s game meant a lot to Lance. I asked Lance what the game meant to him, and he replied, “I went out and performed the best that I know how. My high school pitching coach, Terry Matthews, passed away Friday. He played a very important role in my personal life and baseball career. He played 13 years in the Major Leagues and I knew he was there helping me pitch on Friday. I am glad I was given the opportunity to continue my baseball career at Centenary and fight for my dream”.


We came out on Saturday ready to play two games against McMurry. We knew the series was far from over because the series could be won or lost on Saturday regardless of the outcome of Friday night’s game. The first game would be a seven-inning game, followed by a nine-inning game in the nightcap of the doubleheader. The first game on Saturday started out awesome as Chase Clarke threw a scoreless first inning. We proceeded to load the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the inning. However, we were only able to scratch out one run. We knew we needed to score more than one, but nobody knew we would not score again until the 6th inning. It just goes to show that we really need to capitalize when opposing pitchers walk hitters and give us free base runners. McMurry scored one in the third inning and the score was 1-1 going into the 5th inning. In the top of the 5th, McMurry loaded the bases with no outs. At this point, freshman Peyton Stover was on the mound for us. He induced a sharply hit ground ball to third base, which Marc Martinez did a great job of “bodying up” on. By “bodying up” the ball, I mean he basically sacrificed his body and allowed the hard hit ball to bounce off him so that he could make a play. He picked the ball up, and threw the runner out at home. With one out and the bases still loaded, we called on freshman lefty Taylor Henry to get us out of the jam. On his first pitch, he induced a 4-6-3 double play ball to allow us to escape the inning unscathed. Like I said last week, some of our freshman pitchers are growing up fast by being thrown into big situations. Unfortunately, McMurry executed a suicide squeeze in the top of the sixth to take a 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, our bats woke up as Kyle Morton led off the inning with a double, Jeff Schaffert walked, and then Jemari James moved the runners over with his second successful sacrifice bunt of the game. A strikeout brought Craig Littleman to the plate with two outs and runners at second and third. He smacked a single into centerfield, scoring two runs to put us ahead 3-2. However, McMurry once again proved that they would not go away easily as they tied the game at three in the top of the 7th. Matt Creamer singled with one out to start our rally in the bottom of the seventh, then Ryan Gasporra doubled which put runners on second and third. Tyler Clakley came up big once again; driving a pitch off the wall in centerfield and providing us with a walk-off 4-3 win. Unlike our previous series against Trinity, we battled back and finished strong. I know we didn’t play great the first six innings, but great teams always find a way to win in the end. At the plate, Matt Creamer led us with two hits, while Jemari James played a key role by laying down 2 sacrifice bunts. On the mound, freshmen Chase Clarke, Peyton Stover and Taylor Henry used a combined effort to keep us in the game.

We took the momentum from the first game of the doubleheader and carried it right over to game two. I started on the mound for us. My goal was to do whatever I possibly could to help our team earn a series sweep. The top of the first was a little slippery as an error allowed McMurry to place runners at second and third with two outs. However, I struck out the batter to end the inning. After the game, Coach Stephens pointed out that this was a key point in the game because I pitched over the mistake by our defense. He said that sometimes a pitcher has to “pick up” his defense because they pick up the pitchers a lot with their great defense and potent bats. Matt Creamer started off the bottom of the 1st with a walk and Ryan Gasporra quickly made his way to first base after a hit by pitch. Kyle Morton made the pitcher pay for his mistakes, by launching a three-run homer to deep right center. We tacked on four more runs in the second inning, highlighted by a Tyler Clakley three-run bomb to right field. Ryan Gasporra also blasted a home run in the 4th inning. In fact, our offense brought the big boy bats for game three of the series as they scored in every single inning. After five innings, the score was 10-2 in our favor. We tacked on five more runs in the bottom of the 6th and eventually won after seven innings via the mercy rule, 15-2. I finished the game with 10 strikeouts while pitching all seven innings. I will say that pitching is a lot easier when you know that your offense is going to put up big numbers for you like that. It allowed me to really attack the hitters and pound the strike zone. I also had some great defense behind me, as a Jeff Schaffert to Matt Creamer to Ryan Gasporra relay system nailed a runner at home as he tried to score on a ball hit to left field. One thing that stood out to me about the final game of the series was that every single one of our starters recorded a hit. Marc Martinez went 2-for-4 with two doubles and 3 RBIs, while Nic Parrott went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI as well. Matt Creamer and Jemari James also had doubles, while Gasporra, Clakley and Morton all had home runs. Also, freshman Christian Sebastien made his Centenary debut and contributed with a hard hit groundball for an RBI.


Overall, I was happy with the series. We started off conference play with a sweep and our bats really came alive in the final game. McMurry is historically a very good team in the ASC, so I think we started out on a good note. However, next week we travel to Abilene to take on Hardin-Simmons. They were selected to finish 2nd on their side of the conference in the pre-season poll, so we know we can’t take them lightly. Also, we have a home game next Tuesday against Division-1 Louisiana Tech. It is our only home game against a D1 opponent this season, so I hope we get a great turnout. Stop by next week to hear about our trek into West Texas as we take on Hardin-Simmons. Thanks to everyone who came out this weekend to support us! Go Gents!