Post 284 Pirates' Hitting Woes Continue In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 27, 2014, 09:08
Nathan Eaton slides back into first base after an attempted pick-off play
MECHANICSVILLE — After experiencing success in sports, it's only natural one could also experience a let-down either in the next game or season. In fact, it's a natural human reaction. It's what makes repeat champions rare because to maintain the hunger after reaching the pinnacle takes a special type of individual and team.
After four games of American Legion action, the Post 284 Pirates may still be stuck in the fog of previous success. Most of the players lining the roster played for manager Gilbert Baber their entire lives and won last year's state title on the junior team. However, one year later, the current version of the team has appeared listless at times, displayed a lack of urgency and an inability to string together hits in the early innings.
It's exactly what has cost them in between the white lines. On paper, the Pirates have enough talent to once again contend for a state title, but they have yet to play up to their abilities. With an opportunity to end the trend with a road win against Post 175 at Hanover High School, the Pirates instead went out with a whimper.
Post 175 didn't push across many runs, but they converted on the opportunities afforded to them by uncharacteristic fielding miscues. Stuck in a scoreless game entering the bottom of the 5th inning, an error by Nathan Eaton allowed Post 175's lead-off hitter to reach base. A sac-bunt pushed the runner to second before two-consecutive, two-out hits allowed two runs to score.
Post 175 would tack on an additional run in the 8th and the Pirates could not solve their hitting woes, falling by a 3-0 margin as they dropped their second game in a row. While losses tend to pile up during a baseball season, Baber was not particularly pleased with the mental side of the game his team brought to the diamond.
"We're just not motivated to play," Baber said after his team's listless effort. "That's what I told them earlier. It's almost that they think because of last year, we can just cruise ... Last year, we didn't care who we played because we beat them. This year has been more of the opposite."
Yet, it would have been difficult for even a team clicking on all cylinders to leave Hanover High School with a win because of Post 175 starting pitcher Cody Powers.
Powers does not intimidate opposing hitters with overwhelming velocity nor physical presence. Instead, the right-hander relies on an unorthodox delivery where he releases the ball from a low three-quarters arm-slot and tremendous movement. And it was the movement which made all the difference.
Taking advantage of a Pirates' lineup which has been antsy once stepping into the box and swinging at pitches early in the count, Powers pounded the zone with a devastating two-seam fastball. The sinking movement of the pitch befuddled the Pirates all game long, as they tested the left-side of the infield often, grounding out a total of 13 times in six innings against Powers.
Post 175's Cody Powers tossed a 6-inning, one-hit masterpiece, befuddling the Pirates with a devastating sinker.
Yet, the constant groundouts only told part of the story as the Pirates were limited to just one hit all game long, struggling to make solid contact. Even while attempting to make an adjustment and moving up in the batter's box, the hitters usually made the walk back to the dugout after pounding another pitch into the dirt.
However, more of a concern to Baber is his team's apparent comfort in thinking their spot is guaranteed. It's what made him shake up the lineup during the middle of the game as he removed two players to inject a spark and hinted more may be coming.
"I just think that some are just comfortable knowing they made the team," Baber explained of needing a spark. "I mean, I benched my son and I've never done that as long as I've coached him ... We're going to have to start doing something and mixing some people around."
However, it was not all bad news for the Pirates.
Austin Gammon took the loss for the Pirates, but impressed in his start of the season, tossing a complete-game with six strikeouts.
C.J. Henderson's opposite-field single in the 6th avoided a no-hitter being tossed against them and the team seemed to wake up in their final at-bat in the 9th inning. Unlike in the eight innings prior, the Pirates worked the count and remained patient at the plate.
The strategy paid dividends as they were able to load the bases with two outs before late-game replacement Cory Allgood — he went 2-for-2 the other night — struck-out to end the game. Additionally, Post 284 received another great pitching performance.
In his first start of the season, Austin Gammon was in complete command. The Virginia Wesleyan product painted the corners with his fastballs before locating a deadly 12-to-6 curveball with laser-guided precision. While Gammon would take the loss, two of the three runs he surrendered were unearned and he was able to toss a complete-game with six strikeouts. It's a positive sign moving forward.
"You give up three runs and two of them unearned, that's a great outing," Baber said of Gammon's start. "We just didn't give him any run support. We didn't have a guy reach third base until the 9th inning."
The Pirates may be struggling to start the season, but there is too much individual talent for their team-wide hitting woes to continue much further making an improvement over the next few days a likely scenario.