Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hello Gents fans and welcome back to another busy week of baseball. We played four games this past week and they were all great games. We played a tough mid-week game against Grambling, and three games this weekend against conference opponent Louisiana College. This week, I will tell you about all four games and talk about our upcoming games against Louisiana Tech and University of the Ozarks.


We started off the week with a home game against Grambling on Tuesday. It was supposed to be played at Grambling, but heavy rain over the weekend resulted in their field being unplayable. The game started out a little rough, as our starting pitcher was only able to record one out. However, Nic Parrott came on in relief and minimized the damage. However, we were down 2-0 after the top of the first inning. Tyler Clakley got the inning going with a two-out double, and he eventually scored on a Jeff Schaffert RBI single. Unfortunately, that was all the offense we would get for a while as Grambling led 4-1 after the top of the fourth inning. We were flat and the energy level was very low up to this point. After the top of the fourth inning, I huddled our bench players (non-starters and pitchers) together and told them that we have to pick up the energy level and pick up the intensity.


Low and behold, we scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jemari James got the scoring started, as he stroked an RBI single to right that scored Tyler Clakley. Dan Lazarou tacked on two more runs with a two-RBI double that scored Jemari James and Jeff Schaffert. Craig Littleman added an RBI single and Matt Creamer added a sacrifice fly to complete the scoring for the inning. Grambling added a run in the top of the fifth, but we answered with an RBI groundout by Jeff Schaffert to extend the lead to 7-5. Grambling scratched across another run in the sixth inning, and the score stayed at 7-6 until the bottom of the seventh inning. With two outs, Dan Lazarou ripped an RBI single to right to score Jeff Schaffert, and Craig Littleman followed that with a clutch RBI triple to score Dan. Grambling scored a run in the eighth and ninth innings, but Kyle Morton cancelled out their runs by blasting a two run home run to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the end, we won 11-8. It was not a pretty game, but we got the job done. We struggled a little defensively, which was obvious by the “5” in our error column.


On the bright side, we knocked out 15 hits offensively. On the mound, Nic Parrott threw well in relief and earned the win. Taylor Henry closed out the last three innings for us and earned the save as a result of his efforts. Another bright spot was Grady Flournoy’s return to our pitching lineup this week. Grady had Tommy John surgery (the last phrase you want to hear as a pitcher) last year, so it was great to add him back into the equation. At the plate, Jemari James and Dan Lazarou led our offensive attack. James went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Lazarou went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Tyler Clakley, Kyle Morton, Jeff Schaffert and Craig Littleman all had multi-hit games as well. In the end, we still beat a Division I team while playing far from our highest level. While our level of play disappointed us, we were glad to come out on top. In fact, Grambling is no slouch of a program. Last weekend, they defeated the No. 5 team in the country, the Rice Owls.


On Wednesday, we had an intersquad scrimmage. However, I did not get the chance to stick around and watch most of it. At the beginning of practice, our shortstop, Matt Creamer, was practicing fielding ground balls, and a ball took a bad hop. The ball skipped over his glove and caught him right around his left eye. I took him to the hospital, where he received a few stitches to go along with a nice sized bruise/swelling around his eye. Matt’s parents met us there and they were glad that the damage was not worse. I enjoyed his dad’s comment that “he must have had good form” in order for the ball to hop up in the face. Yes, he was in front of the ball and kept his head down (perfect form), unfortunately, the ball took a bad hop. But, you have to love dads, always finding a positive in the situation!

Thursday was a light practice, because we always take it a little easier the day before a game. On Friday, we left for Louisiana College, which is located in Pineville, Louisiana. It was only about an hour and a half drive, so we took several vans instead of a bus. Most of the pitchers rode in Coach Stephen’s van and we had a fun time jamming some classic music and preparing for the game.

Our offense got started early on Friday night as Matt Creamer led off the game with a single, and he eventually scored on a Jeff Schaffert sacrifice fly. We added two runs in the top of the third inning. Jeff Schaffert drove in a run with an RBI double, and Marc Martinez eventually knocked Jeff in with an RBI single. Lance Nugent started on the mound for us and was great. I know he was excited for the game because he grew up in Colfax, which is just outside of Pineville. He pitched great, as he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The score remained 3-0 until the eighth inning, when both teams scratched out a run. Marc Martinez led off the inning with a single, and he eventually scored on a wild pitch. The final score was 4-1, as Lance Nugent earned his fourth win of the season, and Taylor Henry closed out the final 1 2/3 innings for us. Lance threw 7 1/3 innings, striking out six, while allowing four hits. Matt Creamer, Jeff Schaffert, and Marc Martinez all had multi-hit games for us. I jokingly told Matt’s dad that he needed to take a ball to the eye every week, because he swung the bat really well this weekend. We played better than the score indicated, but we still need to finish stronger and put the game away when we have the opportunity.


After the game on Friday night, we had the opportunity to enjoy a nice dinner at Trey Lavespere’s grandparents’ home. It was an excellent meal, and our team really appreciated the hospitality that his family showed. Also, his “little” brother, Gabe, makes some great desserts. College students rarely get to enjoy a home-cooked meal, so we really appreciated the time and effort they put into the dinner to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. Thank you again for the great dinner, hospitality, and support.


I started game two of the series for us, and Louisiana College threw their best pitcher, who is statistically the best pitcher in the conference (his ERA is under 1.00). This was a seven-inning game, so we knew it was important to gain momentum early. The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Louisiana College knocked in two runs to take a 2-0 lead. However, our offense answered back as Jemari James scored on a fielder’s choice to pull us within one run. The score remained 2-1 until the top of the seventh, which would be our last at-bat of the game if we failed to score a run. Dan Lazarou got things going with a one out single. He eventually stole second, and scored on a ball that trickled into right field. The play at the plate was extremely close, but Dan executed an excellent and evasive headfirst slide to score just before he was tagged. We eventually went to extra innings, where we scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning. A Jeff Schaffert single drove in both Tyler Clakley and Kyle Morton to give us a 4-2 lead. However, Louisiana College managed to score two runs in the bottom of the eighth to force another extra inning. Interestingly, they scored two runs without a base hit. They took advantage of our mistakes and we paid for it. We could have pouted over our misfortunes, but our team is stronger than that.


Dan Lazarou led off the top of the ninth with a home run to give us a 5-4 lead. I will talk later in the blog about why Dan was so successful this weekend, so stay tuned for that. Tyler Clakley added an RBI single that scored Craig Littleman, and Kyle Morton eventually added an RBI sacrifice fly that scored Ryan Gasporra. Grady Flournoy, who pitched out of a jam in the eighth, closed out the ninth and we ended up winning 7-5. We didn’t play great, but I was very proud of our team for battling back multiple times and eventually winning the game. I would say that my start was okay for our team. I battled, competed, and gave our team a chance to win, but I would have liked to have not allowed two runs. Nic Parrott threw well in relief, and Grady Flournoy earned his first collegiate win. As I stated earlier, Grady had elbow surgery about a year ago, so you always feel extremely happy for guys that bounce back from adversity like that. At the plate, Tyler Clakley, who went 3-for-4, and Dan Lazarou, who went 2-for-3, led us offensively. Dan was really successful all week because he put in the time and effort. Multiple times this week I saw Dan up at the field two to three hours before practice working on his hitting. He really committed to getting better, and as a result good things happened. By no means am I saying our other guys don’t put in the extra work, but I specifically saw Dan put in several extra hours of work this week. After each hit he recorded this weekend, I specifically thought that his play was a direct result of the hard work he put in during the week.


Our offense started out hot in the series finale, as Jeff Schaffert crushed a home run to left in the top of the second inning to give us a 1-0 lead. Kyle Morton added a three-run homer in the third inning to extend our lead to 4-0. However, Louisiana College answered with four runs of their own to knot the game at four apiece after three innings. We scored one in the top of the fourth, as Matt Creamer drove in Craig Littleman, who singled with two outs to start the rally. Unfortunately, Louisiana College roared back with three more runs to take a 7-5 lead. Our big mistake came when their All-American shortstop Jordan Marks deposited a 0-2 pitch over the wall for a two-run home run. As a pitching staff, we have to be better than that and make better pitches, especially when the count is in our favor and we are facing their best hitter. The score remained 7-5 going into the final inning (7th inning). We erupted for four runs in the top of the seventh to take a 9-7 lead. We capitalized on their defensive mistakes, and came up with some clutch hits. Ryan Gasporra started the inning with a single, and he eventually scored on a Jeff Schaffert RBI single. Jemari James drove in two runs with an RBI double. Unfortunately, Louisiana College strung together four consecutive hits in the bottom half of the inning to salvage a 10-9 victory. We were disappointed to lose the game because we battled hard to get back in the game. On the bright side, Dustin Dalton made his first appearance on the mound and threw well for 1 1/3 innings. Matt Creamer, Jeff Schaffert, and Jemari James all had a multi-hit game for us offensively.


Louisiana College wasn’t a bad team and I expect them to contend for a playoff spot on the East side of the ASC. However, I believe we should have won all three games. We are a good team, and we still need to fix a few things before we can call ourselves a “great” team. In a way, I think the loss was good for us because it reminded us that we are not invincible. We have been playing really well since mid-February, but I think this series served as a reminder that we can’t just walk into the ballpark and expect to win. Teams really want to beat us, and we realize we have a target on our backs. It is up to us to rise to the challenge each day and bring our “A game” to the field each game as well.


On Sunday, I got to experience some of Louisiana’s finest cuisine, boiled crawfish. Trey Lavespere, Lance Nugent, Marc Martinez, Kamden Haglund, and myself ventured over to Bossier City and ate at Crawfish Palace for dinner. If you are looking for crawfish in the Shreveport/Bossier area, I highly recommend Crawfish Palace. Kamden is from San Diego, California, so it was fun to let him experience a little bit of our southern culture.


This week, we play at Louisiana Tech on Wednesday, and host the University of the Ozarks for three games this weekend. Heavy rain is forecasted for Tuesday and Wednesday, so stay tuned for updates about our game at Louisiana Tech. Follow us on twitter @CentGents to receive the latest updates about games, weather reports, and more. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see a lot of maroon at Shehee Stadium this weekend for our conference series with the University of the Ozarks. Until next week, go Gents!