Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hello Ladies and Gents and welcome back to another week of “On the Bump.” This week we travelled six hours west across Interstate 20 to play a three-game series with Hardin-Simmons. In this edition of the blog, I will talk about our travels to West Texas, our three-game series with Hardin-Simmons and our preparation for our game today against Louisiana Tech.

We practiced in Shreveport on Wednesday before heading out to West Texas. However, it rained all morning on Wednesday so our practice plan was limited to ground balls in the infield since we had put the full field tarp on the previous night. We left on Thursday afternoon around 4 p.m. for Abilene, Texas. We watched Green Lantern, The Mechanic and Never Back Down on the bus ride. We also stopped for dinner in south Dallas at Denny’s. We arrived in Abilene around 11 p.m. and settled in for the night. I roomed with Taylor Henry again on the road trip. It was about the same as our rooming situation in San Antonio, except we didn’t really get to freestyle and rap any in Abilene.

We woke up Friday morning at 7:45 a.m. for breakfast. Typically, I am not a fan of waking up early at all, but this breakfast was definitely a cause for getting out of bed. We stayed at a Hilton and their breakfast buffet was awesome. We could also order French toast or an omelet from the grill. After breakfast, we headed over to Hardin-Simmons for practice at 10 a.m. We ran, stretched, threw and then took about an hour’s worth of batting practice. Like I said a few weeks ago, we like to practice before a game when we go on the road so that our players get used to the field and surroundings at a ballpark that we visit. After practice, we chilled at the hotel and walked around the surrounding areas looking for some lunch.

Game one started off with the second batter of the game, Ryan Gasporra, cranking a home run to right field. However, Hardin-Simmons answered with two unearned runs off Lance Nugent in the top of the first to take a 2-1 lead. The score stayed 2-1 until the top of the third when we scratched across five runs in the top of the third. Dan Lazarou started off the inning and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Creamer. A groundout moved him to third and then a Tyler Clakley single drove him in. After that, we proceeded to score four more runs with two outs with hits coming from Kyle Morton and Jemari James. The score stayed at 6-2 until the Cowboys scored two more runs in the top of the sixth to make the score 6-4. However, we answered back and scored four runs of our own to take a 10-4 lead. Jemari James keyed the rally with a two-run single and Marc Martinez also provided an RBI single. Hardin-Simmons threatened to make it close in the bottom of the eighth, but Taylor Henry entered the game and escaped a bases-loaded jam, leaving the score at 10-5. We tacked on another run in the top of the ninth, courtesy of a Tyler Clakley double. The score would end with us on top, 11-5. We received a great start from Lance Nugent, who went 7 2/3 innings, striking out 11, and only walking one. Taylor Henry, Trey Guccione and Peyton Stover all threw well in relief to help close out the game. At the plate, Ryan Gasporra and Tyler Clakley each went 2-for-5, while Jemari James led the offensive charge, going 4-for-5 with a double and a triple. We played OK, but I know we could have played better. We were kind of stagnant in the middle innings and I would have liked to see us put the game away early rather than in the eighth inning. It is tough to complain after a win, but we aspire to play a high level of baseball, so there is always something to improve on.

We started off game two of the series hot, scoring runs on a Kyle Morton single and a Jeff Schaffert double. Game two of the series was a seven-inning game, so we knew it was important to take control early. Chase Clarke started on the mound and was magnificent. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and he ended up throwing 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball for us. We are lucky he threw well because after the first inning, the Hardin-Simmons pitcher put our bats on lock down as well. It was 2-0 in our favor heading into the seventh and we added two more runs (all with 2 outs). Both runs scored via a Tyler Clakley double. Taylor Henry threw the last 2 1/3 innings, earning the save while only allowing one hit. Our pitching and defense did a great job of earning our first shutout of the year. At the plate, Tyler Clakley led the offense attack by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.


Game three started off once again with our offense striking early. A Tyler Clakley RBI single drove home Matt Creamer, who led off the game with a base hit. However, we loaded the bases with one out and failed to score, which would prove later to be treacherous. I started on the mound for us and allowed an unearned run to score off of an errant pick off throw, which tied the game at one. We pulled in front in the third on an RBI groundout by Jeff Schaffert, but Hardin-Simmons scratched a run across in the fourth to once again tie the game. The game remained tied at two until the wheels fell off for us in the seventh. The bottom of the seventh began with an error and the runner moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. I allowed two singles after that and then was taken out of the game with us trailing 3-2. We got a quick out and it appeared that we would get out of the inning only trailing by one, but Hardin-Simmons had other plans. Two infield singles and a grand slam later, we were down 9-2. It is crazy that a tie game broke open that fast, but that’s baseball. It is a great game, but sometimes it can be cruel. The inning finished with us trailing 10-2, and the game finished with the final score being 10-4. I am proud of our guys for fighting until the last out, as we scored two runs in the ninth. Freshman Nick Gobert had his first collegiate hit in the inning, a double to right field. The crazy statistic of the game is that out of Hardin-Simmons 10 runs, only one was earned. To summarize that last sentence, our defense and pitching cost us the game. We made two crucial errors, and our pitching was unable to pitch over the errors. Last week I talked about our pitchers “pitching over” errors, but this week we were unable to get out of the inning without any damage. Although I struck out eight while only walking one batter, I know that I could have made two better pitches in that fateful inning that could have turned things around for us as well. In baseball, you must have a short-term memory. You can never ride your highs too long and you do not want to hang your head after a tough game. I know that our defense and bullpen will bounce back from the tough game and perform better next time. I believe in my teammates, because I know they believe in me as well.

In the end, we still left Abilene winning two of three for the series. While it was great to win a road series, I know the guys were disappointed to have our six-game win streak snapped. Hardin-Simmons was one of the better teams on that side of the conference, so in that aspect it was nice to know we could win a series against a quality team while playing nowhere near our best brand of baseball. We headed back to Shreveport after the game, arriving around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.


Today (Tuesday) we will take on Louisiana Tech. It is one of three games against Division-1 opponents this season, so I know our guys are pumped up for the game. I would be lying to you if I told you that it was just a normal game. A lot of our guys have not gotten to play against Division-1 teams (we played a D-1 schedule the last two years), so they are excited to see how they compare against the highest level of amateur baseball in America, not to mention that several of our players know some of the players for Louisiana Tech. However, our goal is to treat it like any other game. Yes, Louisiana Tech beat an NCAA powerhouse program last week when they defeated Vanderbilt 9-3, but we just need to play our game. Once the first pitch is thrown, it is just another baseball game. We will not win unless we execute at the plate, on the mound and in the field. It would be great if we could get a big crowd over to Shehee Stadium for the 6 p.m. start time.

This weekend, we open ASC East (our half of the conference) play against East Texas Baptist. However, stay posted on the game times because a lot of rain is in the forecast this weekend for the Shreveport area. Follow us on Twitter @CentGents to receive the latest news, scores and rain delay updates.

Stop by next week to hear how our game with Louisiana Tech went, as well as our three-game series against East Texas Baptist. Thanks for stopping by to read the blog. Go Gents!