Monday, March 12, 2012

Hello everyone and welcome back to another week in the life of a Centenary baseball student-athlete. It’s been a hectic week with practices, a midweek game against Louisiana Tech and a weekend series with East Texas Baptist. Also, Mother Nature was not very cooperative this week, which made the weekend that much busier. All in all, it was a great week for Centenary baseball. I will explain to you why it was a great week for us in this edition of “On the Bump.”

After our series in Abilene last weekend, we followed it up with a midweek game on Tuesday against Division-1 Louisiana Tech. We try our best to treat every game equally, but our guys were a little more amped up for this game than your typical midweek game. Sophomore Nic Parrott got the start on the mound for us, his first start of the season. Louisiana Tech got to him early, as their leadoff hitter deposited the first pitch over the left field wall for a home run, and then the two-hole batter hit a double off the wall. Nic managed to work out of the inning, but we trailed 2-0 after the top of the first. Last year, I think our team might have folded and been discouraged by the early deficit. However, this team is mentally tough and they accepted the challenge. We scored three runs in the bottom of the first. A Ryan Gasporra RBI double and a Jemari James two-RBI double highlighted our offense in the first inning. Parrot threw a three up-three down top of the second inning to help swing the momentum our way and our offense erupted for five runs in the bottom of the second. Matt Creamer, Ryan Gasporra (double), Jeff Schaffert (two-RBI double), and Jemari James (double) each delivered RBI hits in the inning. The score remained 8-2 until the fifth inning when the Bulldogs scratched across a run. I remember thinking at this point, “we need to answer back with a run ASAP and not let them take our momentum.”


Low and behold, Marc Martinez delivered with a home run in the bottom of the fifth to answer back to give us a 9-3 lead. That was a key point in the game because Tech left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth and momentum was slowly starting to turn back their way. We scored five more in the bottom of the sixth to stretch our lead to 14-3. A Jemari James two-RBI double once again highlighted the inning.


Louisiana Tech threatened in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs and loading the bases with two outs, but freshman Taylor Henry took over for Nic Parrott and forced a groundout to escape the jam. Louisiana Tech scored two more in the eighth, but it was not enough as the final score was 14-8. It was a great win for our program, but at the same time it was just another game.


We have the utmost respect for Louisiana Tech and we respect the fact that they are a quality team. Anything can happen on any given day and that is what makes baseball great. We travel to Ruston on March 20, a Wednesday, and I know it will be another quality baseball game. In my opinion, there were a few key reasons we won the game.


First, Nic Parrott bounced back really well on the mound. He could have folded and been rattled by the success of their first two hitters, but instead he settled in and pitched into the seventh inning for us. He hadn’t pitched in about three weeks, so it was great to see him bounce back and have a quality outing. Second, our defense played better than they have all year. Matt Creamer, Craig Littleman, Marc Martinez, and Kyle Morton all made key plays in the infield. We made about five plays in situations where we had previously been inconsistent this season and that was key for us. My final key point is that our hitters did a phenomenal job. Matt Creamer (3-for-6 with three runs, a double and an RBI), Ryan Gasporra (4-for-6 with three runs, two doubles and one RBI), Kyle Morton (2-for-4, three runs), Jemari James (4-for-5 with one run, three doubles and five RBIs) really came through huge for us.


Specifically, I was really proud of Jemari James. His season started off a little slow, but over the past week he has really started to click and swing the bat well. What we accomplished Tuesday was great, as a team and as a school. We did something that everyone said was impossible - we fought and competed at the Division-1 level. It was a great win, but like I said earlier, we play them again so we cannot hang our hat on that one game. Also, thanks to everyone who came out to the game. The attendance was great, even though I would venture to say that about 65% of the crowd was Louisiana Tech fans. Regardless of which team the fans were cheering for, it is always fun to play in front of bigger crowds.


We came back out on Wednesday and had a quality practice. However, Thursday’s practice was hampered by rain and we were forced to hit in the cages and our pitchers played catch in the soggy outfield. The weather also affected our weekend series with East Texas Baptist, as we were forced to push our games back to Saturday and Sunday (conference games are typically Friday and Saturday). We ended up playing two games on Saturday and Sunday’s series finale was rained out. It is unknown if or when we will make up the series finale with ETBU, but it could possibly be made up as a midweek game later in the season.

Game one started off with Lance Nugent on the mound for the Gents. Lance has been a workhorse for us all year, but he ran into a little trouble in the first inning. ETBU scored three in the first inning, but our offense responded with three runs of its own. RBI singles from Tyler Clakley and Jeff Schaffert sparked the big inning for us. The game would remain tied at three over the next six innings (this was the seven-inning game for the weekend), until the eighth inning. Once again, freshman Taylor Henry entered the game for us and escaped a jam, leaving the go-ahead run for ETBU on third base. In the bottom of the inning, Matt Creamer drove home Dan Lazarou, who had been hit by a pitch, with the game winning double. It wasn’t a pretty win, but once again we proved that we can win a close game and finish strong, even when we aren’t at the top of our game. After the first inning, Lance was solid on the mound for us, as he did not allow another run and struck out six over 7 1/3 innings. Taylor Henry was strong in relief and earned the win for us. Matt Creamer played another solid game defensively at shortstop, and Tyler Clakley added another outfield assist to his name, gunning down a runner from right field.

I started on the bump for us in game two of the day, which was also a seven-inning game. It was a seven-inning game because the previous game, which was supposed to be seven innings, went to extra innings. Due to conference rules, the next game (which was supposed to be nine innings) automatically became seven. ETBU struck first, scoring one run in the top of the second. Although we fell behind early, our offense once again bounced back and struck right back. We scored three runs in the bottom of the second and two in the bottom of the third to take a 5-1 lead.


Craig Littleman and Matt Creamer (two RBIs) provided RBI singles in the second inning to provide the three runs. In the third, Littleman and Creamer once again tag teamed to score the two runs, as Craig drove in a run via a sacrifice fly, and Matty Ice delivered another RBI single. I was able to coast through the next four innings due to great defense. I filled up the strike zone and just let them put the ball in play to my defense.


Matty Creamer made some great plays at shortstop, and the rest of our defense played great as well. We didn’t make any errors defensively and, as a result, we had the game under control from the second inning. We tacked on three more runs in the fifth inning to extend our lead to 8-1. Timmy Chhor, who was making his Centenary debut, executed a double steal perfectly and stole home. A Matt Creamer RBI single (yes, another RBI hit for Creamer on the day) and a Ryan Gasporra RBI double closed out the scoring for the day. We ended up winning 8-1 and sweeping the doubleheader from East Texas Baptist. I threw a complete game, striking out three and walking one. I felt confident out there and I have to give credit to our catcher Jeff Schaffert for calling a good game, as well as throwing out a would-be base stealer. Offensively, we were led by Matt Creamer, who went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs. Jemari James also went 2-for-3 in the second game of the doubleheader.

All in all, it was a good day at the ballpark for the Gents. Conference games are very important, so it was great to take two games from a team on our half of the ASC. We were ready to play on Sunday, but the rain did not allow us to hit the field.


Next on the agenda for us is a Tuesday game against Grambling. Grambling is another D-1 team, so we know that we will have to play very well in order to compete with them. I always like playing Grambling because I recorded my first collegiate victory as a freshman against them. After that, we have a weekend series against Louisiana College. LC has played pretty well this year, so we will be looking forward to a solid weekend series with the Wildcats.


On Sunday afternoon, about eight of our guys headed over to the field in the pouring rain to participate in a “tarp slide.” Basically, the full infield tarp acts as a gigantic slip n’ slide when it rains. Needless to say, the Sunday storm brought plenty of rain. We enjoyed getting out in the storm and just acting like kids on the tarp. This brings me to my final point this week.


Our team chemistry has improved drastically since the beginning of the year. We started off the year with a bunch of new faces and it took awhile for everyone to get comfortable around their new teammates. Over the last two or three weeks, I have really noticed that our team is truly gelling and coming together. All the guys have fun together and you can really tell that everyone is enjoying their time at the field, on the road, or just around campus with the team. Team chemistry is extremely important to a team’s success and I believe that our improvement in team chemistry definitely has something to do with the results we are putting up on the field.

On a side note, I would like to thank our athletic trainers, Ellen and Stephanie, for always putting in the time to take care of our guys. We play more games a year than most sports, so our guys are always in the trainer’s room getting steam, ice, heat, or any other type of therapy.


I would also like to congratulate Ellen on the birth of her son last week. We appreciate all the work they do to insure that we are in peak playing condition come game day.


Thanks for stopping by to hear about another week of Centenary baseball. Come on by next week to hear about our midweek game with Grambling, as well as our series with ASC foe Louisiana College. Go Gents!