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Monday Blog: Offense steps up, Robles dominant, more

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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. This weekend, I was in Cookeville as the Govs took on Tennessee Tech in a three-game series from Bush Stadium from Friday, April 4 to Sunday, April 6.

APSU won the first two games by scores of 7-4 and 9-6, but failed to sweep the Golden Eagles by dropping the finale, 16-9

For a full recap on each game, click the links below:

‘Warrior’ effort by Robles ends losing streak

Smith’s blast lifts Govs to series win over TTU

Govs unable to cool off Tech offense

Offense racks up double-digit hits in each game

After last weekend’s brutal sweep at the hands of Murray State, it was a sigh of relief to see the bats break through.

The Govs executed in key situations where runners were in scoring position, and even got hits with two outs, an area where APSU has struggled this season. Just two innings into the first game, the Govs made a statement against their rivals by scoring the first four runs of the series.

Rolando Gautier moved back into the lead-off spot after going hit less in his last 12 at-bats, and set the table for the Govs by going 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI in Game 1.

“I thank Coach Mac (Gary McClure) for having the confidence in me,” Gautier said. “That’s where I belong and I think I have proven it for the three years that I’ve been here. It feels good to be up there. I think that’s the type of player I am.”

In Game 2, the spotlight was shined on Ridge Smith as the freshman broke a 6-6 tie in the eighth with a two-run homer, his fourth of the season. He’s the best pure hitter in the lineup — leading the team with 27 RBI and has reached base in 25-straight games — and the impressive thing about Smith is he doesn’t swing for the fences. Instead, he tries to find the gaps, and admitted he wasn’t trying to hit a home run in that at-bat.

But the hottest hitter over the weekend was Logan Gray.

Despite going 0-for-3 in the first game, the shortstop went 6-for-9 with five RBI and four runs in games two and three, including a towering home run to center field in what he said was the hardest he has hit a ball this season.

“We need Logan to play, and we need him to play well like he’s capable,” McClure said. “He’s a guy that can help our team and needs to help our team like he has this weekend.”

Robles goes eight strong innings to earn third win

What more can you say about Alex Robles?

The freshman has been a crucial part for the Govs in 2014, both on the mound and at the plate. It still amazes me how he can have so much energy even after being a two-way player. Even after throwing 124 pitches in Game 1, he was back out there in the ninth swinging like he was normal position player.

Robles went 2-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored, and is now on a 12-game hitting streak. But it was his pitching that what stood out on Friday.

Robles became the first APSU pitcher to go long than seven innings this season as he last eight innings, allowing four runs (three of which were earned), and totaled a career-best six strikeouts.

“I just wanted to throw strikes and give my team a chance to win,” Robles said. “I didn’t wanna come in thinking I had to do too much. I just wanted to come in here, relax, and just throw like I know I can.”

When Robles is pitching for APSU, the odds are favorable for the Govs to win as they are 4-4 when the right-hander starts. The number drops to 8-16 when anyone other than Robles takes the mound to begin the game.

It’s clear the Govs will rely on him to give them a chance to win on Friday nights, but more production has to come from the twos and threes to put this team in a position where they wanna be.

Injury notes

  • As I watched batting practice on Sunday afternoon, senior catcher P.J. Torres was just finishing up his last round when he tweaked his left shoulder on a swing. He was immediately evaluated on the bench by the trainer, and was left out of the lineup. McClure doesn’t know the extent of the injury at this time.
  • McClure said that relief pitcher Jordan Harmon is closer to returning following an arm strain, but doesn’t know if he’ll be ready to go again this upcoming week.

Things I liked

  • Three double plays turned in Game 1 by the defense, which has really improved despite three errors committed on the weekend.
  • P.J. Torres drawing three walks in Game 1. It was good to see that from the senior, now let’s just hope this shoulder injury isn’t serious.
  • Also on Torres: He gave the Govs an insurance run in the ninth inning of Game 2 with a solo home run, and is tied with Gray for tops on the team with five.
  • A.J. Gaura earning his first career save in Game 1. The Govs may have found their closer, yet the spot is really up in the air right now.
  • Jake Corum’s breaking ball. Man, that thing is nasty. I’m not sure whose curve his better: Corum’s or Levi Primasing’s. I’m going to have to think about that one.
  • Ryan Quick’s fastball/slider combo. Up until Game 3, the senior had not allowed a hit since being used out of the bullpen in five innings of work. In Game 2, Quick did not allow a hit in two and a third innings, with his slider looking as good as I’ve ever seen it.
  • Garrett Copeland quietly on a seven-game hitting streak. Even at the bottom of the order, he has stayed consistent to be able to provide some pop, making the lineup dangerous from top to bottom.
  • Dre Gleason’s solo home run in Game 3, a no-doubter which is surprisingly just the second for him this season.
  • Matt Wollenzin going 2-for-5 with two runs scored and a RBI in Game 3. I felt like his performance was overlooked, coming in for the injured Torres, but had a solid day at the plate.
  • Cayce Bredlau pinning a ball against the center field wall on a bounce, limiting Daniel Miles to just a single in Game 3. I thought it was well-done on his part to get the ball in quickly.
  • Alex Belew out of the pen. Another area that isn’t getting enough attention is how good the senior has been. Belew allowed just two hits in one and two-thirds innings over the weekend, dropping his ERA down to 3.75.

Midweek match-ups: vs. Western Kentucky on Tuesday, April 8 (6 p.m.)
at Memphis on Wednesday, April 9 (6:30 p.m.)

Photo: The Govs lined up for the National Anthem (Corey Adams/The All State)

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