Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Early mornings in San Clemente

We had 11 boys confirmed for a three day tournament in San Clemente over the Labor Day weekend. You might think that playing by the beach would be nice and cool. Nope. Steed Park is tucked away in the hills in the really hot part of town. No worries, all of our games were scheduled to be over by noon anyway.

The first day was another frustrating mess of missed opportunities. The team did not capitalize and then seemed to give in during the later innings. In the first game Rabbit started at first and made all 3 outs in the inning. His first AB was a ground out to second. We talked about being more aggressive at the plate. When he came up the second time it was bases loaded and no outs. He was able to get an RBI, but it was on a fielder's choice. He is working on his power and is looking better at the plate.

Rabbit started game 2 and pitched very well. As per the usual he went two innings, 1 earned, 2 k's and left with the lead. Most importantly he had no walks. In fact, he struck out a batter with a change up that was just plain nasty. He was dealing. At the plate he was walked on 5 pitches the first time up and struck out in his second trip. He was at a 3-1 count and got called for a strike on a pitch that was 8" inside. After that call he was hacking at anything. In the field he played more excellent 1B including a great play on a foul pop that was hit right into the sun. Rod Stilanovich would be proud (see No Excuses, Part 3). The team played better, but still it was mental errors that lead to being "mercied" twice. In the second game they walked 8 batters, and all 8 came around to score

That night we went to the OC Flyers game and had a chance to relax before Sunday's game.

Sunday's game was just what the team needed. The pitching was dominant, the hitting was timely and the baserunning was focused. The team coasted to an easy 13-3 mercy win. Rabbit had a real nice two-strike double over the third baseman's head later coming around to score. In his second AB he struck out again, but only after fouling a few off. It was a good win and the type of performance the kids deserved for playing so well.

We had to play Monday at 8am, that meant leaving our house at 6:30. In the morning. Yipes!

This was now single elimination and Rabbit was given the ball. He went 1-2-3 in the first and was effective, but not sharp. In his first AB he grounded out 4-3 on a pretty well hit ball. In the second inning of pitching he got the first batter, then totally lost control. He got hit hard, then walked a batter, then the opposing team called time while he was in his wind up. Rabbit was flustered and gave up for a few hitters. During that 4 batter stretch three got on base and two scored. He walked 2 that inning and went full count to a batter who never took the bat off his shoulder before finally striking him out. The defense shares partial responsibility by allowing 5 outs that inning. However, they were following the lead of their starter. Overall it was only 4 runs, but they were down 4-1 in an elimination game.

Huge kudos to the team and the coaches for not quitting. The game stayed 4-1 until the 5th when we pushed one more across. In Rabbit's second AB he popped up to the pitcher on the first pitch. He was trying to make something happen, but will learn about pitch selection over time. They scrapped together one more run in the sixth but still lost 4-3. The team showed a lot of heart and deserved a better fate. It is frustrating, to be sure, but these types of losses will help the team get better.

The team is better today than they were three weeks ago, that is for certain. They have now played 7 games together and I expect that 7 more games will make them a force to be reckoned with.

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