As they continued to try new tactics last Wednesday on the road in Happy Valley, the JCHS baseball team was faced with a lot of ups and downs in their game against the Warriors. Coming out strong in the first inning with 2-1 lead, a series of defensive missed cues and a lack of successful hitting against an unfamiliar left handed pitcher saw the game finish up in a real slump. Regardless, the Longhorn coaching staff did note a few bright points through the day especially from the teams incoming freshman class.
At the behest of Coach Nicholas Perkins, Assistant JV Coach Jerry Whitener has been playing a growing role with the summer ball program and played a particularly prominent role against the Warriors. Having called most of the pitches through the evening and made many of the decisions regarding position changes, Whitener was cautiously optimistic about the teams performance.
The freshmen did fine, Whitener said. McClain Carlton had a great second base bunt; Gabe Reece caught some good balls. Weve got a pretty good freshman class coming in, so it wasnt a total disaster today. We had a few defensive issues, but really most of our pitchers did pretty well. Were trying some people that normally may not play that position, and we may not stay with them that long in the case of the pitchers. It is summer ball and you want to give everyone a chance to work on new things, work on new positions. Its summer ball so part of it was that we maybe went longer than we would have in the regular season.
As Whitener pointed out, there was a lot of movement throughout the game. Considering it was an early match up that began at 11 that morning only nine actual players came out for Johnson County and of that number about half got to try their hand at the mound. Logan Sargent was the first pitcher for the Longhorns, doing a great job in the first and second innings before handing it over to Alex Calderon. Daniel Livorsi picked up in the fourth, Adam Worley in the fifth, and Brandan Cox finished up in the sixth.
For some like Worley and Sargent, the game was just a good refresher from the regular season, but for others like Cox and Calderon the time on the mound earned some critical experience in a high-pressure situation. Through most of the game, Happy Valley was kept away from home plate. There were no runs in the second or fourth innings, and only one run each in the first and fifth. The real trouble came from two big sweeps in the third and sixth that cumulatively put up nine runs.
A part of the problem was bases loading up from walks and wild pitches, but things were only made worse with simple errors in the fielding. Added to the fact that it was those two innings where the Warriors started landing big hits, including a huge triple in the sixth, there was little that the Longhorns could do to make up those critical advances. Thats not to say that there werent strong defensive moments as well. Freshman Gabe Reece made a huge catch on a pop up fly deep in the outfield during the fifth, and Adam Worley made a great play during the second to get the third out.
The offense just couldnt seem to get a handle on Happy Valleys freshman left-handed pitcher. Throwing out some notoriously slow balls, most of the time the batter was too far ahead. There were numerous walks, and in fact both Worley and Carlton ended up gaining Johnson Countys first two runs on advances from walks, but by and large the Longhorns found themselves in trouble at the plate. The only other run of the whole game came in the fifth when Worley took advantage of a ground ball to gain home.
In the end the final score was a distressful 3-11 loss, but as Coach Whitener emphasized summer ball is all about learning the game and identifying strengths and weaknesses. It gives us a chance to see the players and it gives the players a chance to show what they have without the pressure of the regular season, Whitener said. It gives the players a chance to show the coaches Ive improved in this area and it gives the coaches an opportunity to look and say well we need to sit down and figure out a program before next year to help this player get better.