They say the great difference maker in baseball is pitching and defence.
That was certainly the case for the Vauxhall Spurs baseball club in starting its American Legion ‘A’ regular season this past weekend in Lethbridge with the Y’s Men Miners in a doubleheader. And not for the better.
The Spurs lost its first game 8-7 as pitcher Hunter Johnson could not find the strike zone.
“We ran into trouble with ball four and hit by pitches. We ended up hitting or walking 11 batters,” said Joel Blake, head coach of the Vauxhall Spurs baseball team which features Taber-area players. “We only ended up losing by one run, but when you end up giving 11 free passes, that’s tough to overcome.”
Blaise Unruh started on the mound for the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday, but was let down by the defence behind him right away.
“He had no help defensively. I believe we made five errors in the first inning and they put up an 11 spot,” said Blake. “At that point we brought in Kaden Fujita and they did not score for the rest of the game. We ended up making it 11-7 with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, but we couldn’t get it done.”
One could chalk up the doubleheader to early-season jitters, but not Blake who does not want to use excuses for his veteran-laden team that is expected to contend in American Legion ‘A’ for the 2016 summer season.
“I don’t buy that (early-season jitters) because these kids have been playing for two months already with their high-school teams. I can blame it not perhaps not being ready to play and our defence,” said Blake. “It’s the same thing that killed us at times last year with that un-confidence, lack of confidence on the defensive side of the baseball. In practice, we take reps upon reps of groundballs, where they’re just fine when there is no one in the stands and there is no pressure. But it’s a matter of trusting yourself and not being on your heels when you take a grounder. They just looked real tight out there and I preach for them to go get it. It’s getting between the ears, it’s a mental thing.”
Blake was quite happy with the offence overall for a Spurs squad that is 15 players deep this year and will be getting some extra pitching depth this year from K.J. Moreno and Jalen Lane who have played with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets.
“K.J. is going down to Kansas to play college ball next year, but if he goes back to Bermuda (his home area), there is no baseball down there. He wants to get better and keep his skills sharp, so we are keeping him on the roster,” said Blake. “He’s a big pick up, where we are expecting him to be a big arm for us.”
The Spurs have a doubleheader in Medicine Hat this Thursday against the Knights before hosting a weekend of doubleheaders at Jets Stadium. The Spurs play an exhibition two-game set against Edmonton on Saturday starting at 2 p.m. with the second game at 4:30 p.m. The Spurs then return to league play against the Great Falls Electrics on Sunday with a doubleheader with games at noon and 2:30 p.m.
“We have swung it well, we’ve scored runs, we hit with guys on. We’ve had no issues offensively, we just have to clean up our defence. It starts on the mound number one and then taking care of the ball defensively number two,” said Blake. “I’m really, really happy about our team on paper and so are a lot of other teams saying we are one of the teams to beat. We are very experienced with 10 or 11 Grade 12s, but coming off of Saturday, we have to figure it out sooner or later.”