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. With this weekend’s series against Murray State not complete with a schedule change forcing the two clubs to play on Monday instead of Friday, I’m going to focus on the first two games, and then preview Game 3.
The Thoroughbreds have won the series already by taking the first two games by scores of 7-2 and 6-4, respectively, on Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30. Game 3 will begin on Monday, March 31 at 2 p.m. at Raymond C. Hand Park, so once you get out of class, come watch some baseball.
McClure calls out teams following Game 2 defeat
We’re not even at the midway point of the regular season, but the frustrations are continuing to pile up as the Govs fell to 3-5 in conference play. That puts APSU eighth in the standings, and head coach Gary McClure expressed his disapproval of his team’s play following Sunday’s 6-4 loss.
“Unless our guys change their attitudes and approaches, we’re headed for disaster,” he said. “That’s where we’re at. We don’t do what it takes to win, we’re selfish, and we don’t listen. We’ve gotta make adjustments.”
You have to go back several years to find an APSU team that was headed for ‘disaster’, but McClure has every right to feel that way in 2014. There have been flashes of great play out of this year’s team, yet mistakes continue to occur in every facet of the game. Murray State was picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, but are now just one win away from sweeping the Govs, who placed second in the preseason ranks.
There is hope, however. Luckily for the Govs, the conference this season is wide open. There isn’t a team that stands out among the rest, so anything can happen from here on out. But keep an eye out for who is coming up on the schedule: the preseason favorites Tennessee Tech (April 4-6), and the current leader at 10-2, Southeast Missouri (April 11-13).
It’s crucial for the Govs to build some type of momentum before beginning each of those sets.
Offensive numbers plummet
The Govs have relied on their offense throughout this season to overpower teams when the pitching was off, averaging just over eight hits a game, but failed to reach that number in both games.
This isn’t a number I would like to type, but the team average for the two games combined was .184 (12-for-65).
More importantly, APSU has struggled in key situations with runners on base, often leaving men in scoring position. It’s becoming a recurring theme as of late, losing three of their last four games by two runs or less.
When asked about it, both Logan Gray and Garrett Copeland said that it may be because guys are trying to do too much at the plate, and McClure has been telling his players to hit the ball on the ground instead of swinging for the fences, only to see the ball blow by or pop up.
Pitching advantage in favor of Thoroughbreds
When it comes to pitching, I think you have to tip your hat to how effective Murray State starters Cameron Finch and Brock Downey were.
Finch allowed a couple runs in his seven and a third innings pitched on Saturday, while Downey was one out away from tossing a complete game to earn his fifth win of the season.
Robles went against Finch in Game 1, and while it wasn’t a great outing by the freshman as he failed to go seven for the first time in his last five starts, he put the Govs in position to win. Robles threw strikes — 70 of his 106 pitches finding the zone — but the Murray State hitters connected on them for several singles.
In Game 2, it was a rough outing for left-hander Levi Primasing. The freshman could not get his control down — walking five batters while hitting another — and exited after just two and two-thirds innings. Primasing allowed the Breds to put up four runs in the first inning, which led to his second loss of the season.
There are going to be ups and downs when you have three freshman in the weekend rotation now, but they’ll have to get out of early trouble, then hopefully let the offense help them settle in with some support.
Things I liked
- Ridge Smith’s improvements at third base. Smith told me he has really been working on his defense at third — where he typically plays when Robles is on the mound — and it showed on Saturday as he robbed a base hit with a nice scoop and throw at the hot corner.
- Cayce Bredlau hitting at the top of the lineup. His double on Saturday was the only extra base hit the Govs had, and is the type of player you want leading off or in the two hole. He said he’s happy as long as he’s in the lineup, and I don’t think he’ll have to worry about being out if he continues to stay consistent.
- A solo home run by Logan Gray on Sunday. The blast — which was a no-doubter as the freshman instantly started his trot before it sailed over the left field wall — gave APSU its first run of the game.
- Dre Gleason’s two RBI double in the same inning, which put the Govs within one run of tying the game.
- Jared Carkuff pitching four innings in relief. I admit, I was surprised to see the closer enter the game in the fourth inning on Sunday, but the right-hander has been shaky late in games so McClure decided to go with him for long relief. Carkuff bounced back from giving up a homer the day prior, and allowed just one run on three hits in his 73 pitches thrown.
- Ryan Quick sitting down five batters in a row in the 8th and 9th. After going through his struggles in the starting role, the senior looked like his old self on Sunday. Word is that Quick topped out at 94 on the radar gun, and he threw his fastball over and over again to limit any further damage.
Game 3 Preview
The Govs will send freshman Caleb Powell (0-0, 6.87 ERA) to the mound, while Murray State counters with lefty Sheldon Baxter (0-1, 3.64 ERA). Obviously, I’m going to be watching to see if the offense can pull through with the pressure on them, but I’m also interested to see how Powell looks. This will be his third start, and is coming off a solid outing against Jacksonville State where he allowed just one hit in four and a third innings. If he is able to go for about five innings, I think the Govs will be happy with that.
Best case scenario: Powell goes five or six innings, Alex Belew and Zach Walton come in after not pitching any so far this weekend, and A.J. Gaura or Jake Corum closes it. We know Carkuff won’t be out there after the amount of pitches he has thrown, so I’d probably lean toward Corum coming on if a save opportunity is there.
My player to watch is Ridge Smith. Smith has gone 0-for-6 so far in the series, but has gotten on base in both games and hasn’t had any strikeouts. He’s got a favorable matchup with a lefty on the mound, so I think he’s due for a big game.
Photo: Cayce Bredlau (Corey Adams/The All State)