MACON — The Eastern Brown Warriors baseball team had a bit of a rough start to the 2016 campaign.
The squad lost four out of it’s first five games, though the team’s lone win did come against Southern Hills Athletic Conference foe Manchester.
Other than that, however, the Warriors had dropped games by 11-1, 12-1 and 16-6 margins, the last of which came in the first of a twin bill against Northwest this past Saturday.
The Warriors and Mohawks squared off on a cold and windy day, which could explain the 35 total runs the teams put up in the doubleheader. The first game was all Northwest, as the Mohawks pounded out 16 hits and scored 16 runs in six innings of play. Eastern was led by Kyle Burbage, who picked up a pair of base-hits in two at-bats. Burbage also scored a run and tallied an RBI. Nick Kelch also had two hits and an RBI, but the Warriors committed six errors in the contest.
Head coach Steve Goetz said the errors were on routine plays, but the team tightened up the defense later in the day.
“Most of our struggles were on routine plays, either ground balls hit right at us or throwing errors,” Goetz said. “Ironically, as the winds picked up later in the day on Saturday, we did a much better job of making plays, that under normal circumstances would be routine, but with the wind, became very tough plays.”
Goetz also said he believed the team’s mentality is the cause for their trouble on defense, not any physical ailment.
“I think our fielding struggles are more mental than physical right now — I think we lose focus a little bit at times and at other times we get a bit anxious and then it gets in our heads and we start thinking about it too much,” Goetz said. “I think we settle down, as the season goes on and once we make a few more plays, the confidence will take over.”
The second game went much better for the Warriors. Down 2-1 entering their half of the fourth inning, Eastern exploded for five runs and added three more in the fifth to jump ahead 9-2.
Klein started the fourth inning with a single, the first of four straight Warriors to reach base. Two batters later, shortstop Branden Tomlin drove in both Klein and Kevin Schmid to put the Warriors ahead. Eastern would add two more runs in that inning. Two of the team’s three runs in the fifth inning came off the bat of Jacob Diener, who tripled into center field and scored Klein and Schmid. Diener would score on a dropped third strike for Eastern’s final run of the game.
Calder Holton pitched a complete game for the Warriors in the victory, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits. He walked seven batters while striking out three.
The Warriors returned to the diamond on Monday, April 4 for a conference showdown with Whiteoak and rolled to a 6-0 victory thanks to a dominant performance on the mound by Schmid. He tossed a complete game, allowing just one hit and three walks. Schmid struck out 10 of the 26 batters he faced in the game.
Goetz said Schmid kept the ball near the strike zone, which allowed him to keep the hitters guessing.
“First and foremost, [he] threw strikes — even when he was missing, the pitches were close,” Goetz said. “[He] was able to throw both his fastball and curve for strikes which is what kept Whiteoak’s hitters off-balance. When you have control of more than one pitch and are constantly around the strike zone, you keep hitters guessing and you can expand the strike zone a little more, where hitters are not squaring-up the baseball. After walking the first game of the game on 4 pitches, [he] settled down and as the game went on, you could just see his confidence building inning by inning. In a couple earlier starts, [Schmid] had been inconsistent throwing strikes so it was great to see him find his rhythm yesterday. The way he threw the ball against Whiteoak is what we know he’s capable of doing each time out.”
The Warriors will look to build on their recent run of success as the team continues their conference schedule with a road contest against the Peebles Indians on Thursday, April 7 at 5 p.m. The squad will also pay a visit to West Union on Monday, April 11. Goetz said he knows these league games will be tough for his team.
“Every game in the SHAC will be a tough game,” Goetz said. “I think you would have to call Lynchburg, Fayetteville and North Adams the favorites, but I think all 7 of the other teams are capable of beating anyone else, on any given day. There’s just something about league games and the rivalries and knowing your opponents, that just make for a lot of hard-fought, close games. I think the whole league will be very competitive and it should make for a great SHAC season.”