You have reached the Monday Morning Blog.
Following each conference baseball series, I’ll offer my thoughts from the weekend, as well as touching on other behind the scenes notes in APSU baseball. On Friday, March 15 through Saturday, March 16, the Govs opened up Ohio Valley Conference play with a series win over Eastern Illinois, dropping Friday’s contest before sweeping a doubleheader the following day.
There is a lot to cover in the debut edition, so let’s dive into it.
Offense catches fire, and more is on the way
If you like offense, it was definitely a fun weekend as the Govs racked up thirty runs on 34 hits in the three games combined.
The bats were en fuego (meaning “on fire” if you don’t know Spanish), as the Govs totaled 16 extra base hits, four of which being home runs. It was the first time the Govs have recorded double-digits hits in three consecutive games since May of last season, and the scary thing is, this could be only a sign of what’s to come.
This team may not have a a guy like Craig Massoni who will put up eye-popping home run and RBI numbers as he did in 2013, but this year’s overall core is better than I’ve ever seen at APSU. From top to bottom, there is power, and I’ll touch on some individual players later on who have shown it. There have been spurts where players have opened up, but just wait until everyone clicks at once. It may seem like they already have judging from the weekend’s box scores, yet I see more coming from this offense.
Keeping Kevin Corey out of the lineup will be difficult
Last season, Kevin Corey started 42 games and compiled a batting average of .220 with one extra base hit.
Fast forward to his senior campaign and he is currently hitting .458 in seven starts, and already has a pair of doubles. Corey shined in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader by going 4-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored, and has certainly made the most of his opportunities when he is inserted in the lineup.
“Any opportunity I get I just want to go out there and play hard do my part,” Corey said. “Obviously, I felt real comfortable at the plate, and I think a lot of that had to do with guys before me getting on base and making stuff happen and having for long innings. I was able to get some pitches to hit and balls found some holes, so it felt good.”
Corey has been the odd man out with the freshman class coming in that have stepped in and filled the infield positions. But the senior made several nice defensive plays on sharply hit balls, and has made just one error this season. For this reason, and the fact he is swinging a hot bat, how can you take him out of the lineup?
You could see him in the designated hitter role where he has been twice this season, but he’s playing the best defense out of the other middle infielders.
New infield alignment proved to be great gamble
Speaking of errors, the weekend was an overall success for the defense. Yes, the Govs committed two on Friday and one in the middle game, but in the finale, APSU had its first error-free game of the season.
Yes, I know you’re saying, “Finally!” as you read that, and it was great to see.
On Saturday, head coach Gary McClure changed the infield up a bit by taking Logan Gray out of the lineup, moving Garrett Copeland over to shortstop, and placing Corey at second (leaving Alex Robles at third and Dre Gleason at first). McClure was clearly impressed by it after game one that he stuck with it for another nine innings.
“It did the job today, so I really liked it,” McClure said. “I was proud of the way they stepped up. Kevin Corey really stepped up. I thought he played his best defensive game in the middle infield since he’s been here. He gave his body up on some balls that were really smoked and hit hard at him and chested them up.”
McClure also noted that Copeland and Robles played well at their respected positions, and I want to see this infield alignment more as the season progresses.
Levi Primasing was outstanding in picking up second career win
As several spectators wearing blue and gold Northeast gear looked on, the Clarksville native Levi Primasing was impressive on the mound in his third collegiate start.
Primasing earned the win in the series finale, going seven innings allowing just two runs on five hits while striking out a career-best five batters. The lefty now has two wins, and leads the team in ERA at 3.38 and strikeouts with 14.
McClure explained how Primasing pitched ahead in the count all day, and the movement on his fastball was key to force hitters to swing on tailing pitchers on the outside corner. Primasing also mixed in his change up and curve ball very well with great sinking action, and made things looked easy.
It certainly helped getting run support and with a defense behind him that had no blunders.
If Primasing keeps this up, he could become APSU’s number one starter in the rotation. I’ll even go out on a limb and say he will be in a month or so.
Freshmen quartet of Copeland, Gleason, Hamilton, and Bredlau are turning a corner
Ridge Smith and Logan Gray have been the consistent hitters in the APSU lineup to open up the season, but more guys are really starting to put things together.
Starting with Copeland, who went 5-for-12 on the weekend with four runs scored. He is also cutting down on the strikeouts — having just one in the series — and was moved into the two hole on Saturday after getting on base more.
If you watch Dre Gleason in batting practice, it’s impressive to see what this guy can do to a baseball. I’ve seen him hit balls to the street beyond the right field wall, and just missed hitting his first homer of the season on Saturday as he drilled the top of the high wall in center. The first baseman drove in four runs during the series, and will continue to stay in the clean-up spot in the lineup.
Chase Hamilton has been in the worst slump of anyone, batting .095 coming into Friday. But he went 2-for-5 in that game, including a triple that sparked a rally midway through the game. He’s got the talent — as McClure has said many times — it’s just about his mentally. Besides senior Rolando Gautier, Hamilton is best outfielder on the team in my book, so it’s not like he’s going to be benched much.
Just when you thought Cayce Bredlau was just a speedster who only beats out bunts, boom! The graduate of Northwest High School belted his first collegiate home run in the series finale, and is currently on a six-game hitting streak. It’s been really nice to have him produce at the bottom of the lineup to give Gautier opportunities to drive in runs even at the lead off spot.
Other things I liked
- Alex Robles hitting streak watch – 10 games. Impressive.
- A pinch hit homer by Logan Gray in the seventh inning of game one of the doubleheader that proved to be the game-winning blow for APSU.
- A home run by Matt Wollenzin in the ninth inning of Friday’s game. It wasn’t enough for the Govs to win, but gave them life only to fall short.
- Also by Gray: a jump throw ranging to his right at second base to nail a runner going to first. Gray said he tries to model his game after Derek Jeter, and that play was very Jeter-esque.
- The senior production in Saturday’s first game. I wrote about in my recap, but I had to include it again. Eight of the runs scored were drove in by Gautier, Wollenzin, Torres, and Corey.
- Speaking of Torres…The catcher was hit in the head by a pitch in the finale and went down for a moment. Torres told me afterward it definitely rattled him, but as the senior has done many times throughout his career, he got up and trotted down to first like nothing happened.
- One more thing on Torres…It was great to see McClure give him the steal sign (at least, I think he got the sign) while on first base. Let’s not forget he is still tied at the top in triples with two, so maybe there is some speed after all in him.
- The bullpen in the first game on Saturday. Tommy Hager, who picked up his second win of the season, Jake Corum, Alex Belew, and Jared Carkuff combined to hold the Panthers scoreless through the final three innings, allowing just three hits.
Mid week Match-up: at #17 Tennessee (17-2) on Tuesday, March 18