I don't think we can be disappointed with getting the series on the road against a quality opponent. I know the meltdown on Saturday was heartbreaking, but I believe the lessons learned from this series will serve us well throughout the season. How did it happen? I'll do my best to describe the most pivotal moments after the jump.
Wright was absolutely dealing on the mound....
Here were some pivotal moments that led to victory on Friday and Sunday but let the wheels come off on Saturday.
Friday: the meltdown in the sixth. Overall, Crouse had a great game by pitching 7 innings and striking out 8. However, the 6th inning got a little hairy when the Cougars singled, and then had back to back bunts for singles. With the bases loaded and no outs, the next Cougar singled to score one. Crouse walked the next batter to give up his second run of the game. With the bases still loaded and no outs, he had to put-up or shut-up.
Outcome: Crouse struck out the next batter (Cokinos). Then, the infield turned the 6-4-3 double play to get us out of the inning. Crouse would pitch a harmless seventh before Huber would pitch two innings of shutout relief to close the game.
Saturday: the meltdown in the sixth. I don't know what it is about the sixth inning, but it was tough on us this weekend. David Goforth had pitched pretty well allowing only one run through the first five innings. He climbed the hill in the sixth working with a two run lead. After a fly-out, single, steal, and issuing a walk, Bianco pulled Goforth in favor of Rothlin. Rothlin walked the next batter to load the bases.
Outcome: The Rebels have flirted with this scenario many times this season, but we have always found a way to get out of the jam or turn a double play. Saturday, however, everything went wrong. Rothlin hit the next batter to score a run. He then walked the next batter to score another run. With the bases still loaded, Matt Tracy enters to pitch. On his first batter, Alex Yarbrough committed a throwing error trying to turn the double play allowing two runs to score. Tracy then struck the next guy out to escape the inning. With little to no run support, the Rebels went on to allow a total of 8 runs and lose their first game of the season.
Sunday: the meltdown in the sixth. After scoring 15 in the opener, we had not scored more than six runs since. On Sunday, we finally put together some decent offensive numbers with 17 hits. We started early by scoring one in the second, two in the third, and three in the fourth. Clinging to a 6-1 lead heading into the fifth, all looked great to take the series. However, the Cougars scratched two runs across to close the gap to 3, many wondered how the Rebels would respond to the adversity. Score or let the pitching staff fold under pressure yet again. Then, Eric Callender entered to pitch. He got a strike out and then promptly allowed a walk, single, and a fielder's choice that put men at second and third with two outs. We are one single away from a neck and neck ballgame.
Outcome: Mike Bianco doesn't want to see another disaster so he brings in Jake Morgan. Jake gets the guy to strike out. We tack on a couple of runs and seal the victory 8-3.
- It was great to see the team respond to some adversity on the road, but they (Mike Bianco included) need to make sure the poor pitching and errors don't happen in the clutch situations. The Saturday game reminded me of 2007 when Bittle and Satterwhite both blew the closing roles and we spent the season wondering if we could get a closer to throw strikes. We didn't, and that ended poorly.
- Zach Kirksey has 6 hits in 11 at bats. You know what else? He has 2 homers. He averages a homer per five at bats. I know Mike likes to play the lefty on righty game, but geez, give the kid some chances at the plate.
- Before Saturday, we had a 46/8 strikeout to walk ratio as a staff. On Saturday alone, we walked/hit 8 batters. So, why did we lose the game again? Outside of that game, our pitching staff has been incredibly efficient.
- Will Allen got his first long ball in his first at bat of his Rebel career.
- Matt Smith has a strained forearm.
- I don't want to count them, but we grounded into many killer double plays this weekend. I hope that was an aberration because we had only grounded into one before the weekend.
On deck..... Austin Peay (4-0) comes to town for Tuesday and Wednesday games. Both games begin at 6:30.