Baseball fans got their first look at the lineup last week when the Longhorns traveled to Hampton for the first full scrimmage of the season. It was a somewhat sloppy start for both teams, with each introducing new faces to the roster, trying out veteran players in entirely new positions, and getting a feel for the game they havent played in several months. Naturally there were many mistakes made, ranging from dropped catches to poor choices from the runners. Yet even so, for the first time actually on the field the Longhorns still had a fairly decent game, running neck and neck with the Bulldogs before pulling out a win by one run 8-7.
Weve not been out on the field and its good for us just to get out there, said Head Coach Pete Pavusek. We were just trying to move around and play some ball. Well get better and better with each game hopefully. Its just the weather. Were back at it again and just like last year weather is killing us, but its good to get out good to be outside playing a little ball. We did some good things, did some bad things, some things we need to work, on and hopefully will get better.
The Longhorns were the first to bat, with Samuel Icenhour landing a solid opening hit to take first. Nick Whitener was next up, working to a full count and then taking a walk to move Icenhour to second. Pitcher Sam Thomas followed suit with another walk but by then Icenhour had already stolen third and eventually home to become the first run of the evening.
A strikeout and a couple runners caught off base ended what could have been a stellar drive giving the field over to the Bulldogs for their turn on the offense. Thomas took over the mound for the Longhorns, throwing out a solid performance despite a handful of Hampton hits that ultimately gave the Bulldogs a one run lead. The damage wasnt too bad as Johnson County made several huge catches deep in field, including a third out catch by Samuel Icenhour.
The second inning went much the same way, with enough of a combination between good contact on the ball, including a big hit by senior Jake Southerland, as well as numerous walks to give the Longhorns three more runs. With Thomas back on the mound Hampton wasnt quite as successful, evening the score 4-4 by pushing two more runners through. The Bulldogs bounced back in the third, nailing several big hits and prompting some changes on the field including the first introduction of freshman Daniel Livorsi to the Johnson County pitching staff.
Because Hampton has no lighting around their field the game was limited to four innings, making the Longhorns last at bat critical to a win. Having put up three runs to the Longhorns two, Hampton was ahead 7-6 coming in, but with players like Payton Fenner, Jake Bower, and Nathaniel Graybeal doing very well late in the game, Johnson County was able to push through another two runners giving them a final score of eight.
Yet the game wasnt over until Hampton had their last shot at bat and with just one run between them, the win ultimately came down to how strong Johnson County could play on the defense. Gambling, the coaching staff made a few final changes in the positions, bringing in junior R.J. Hassett to take over as catcher. Even with very little time in that critical spot Hassett still had a very good inning, watching as the first two outs flew by and then making a critical throw to first to cut off the runner and gain the third out.
Ive not had much experience as catcher at all, Hassett admitted after the game. Ive probably caught five or six bull pens in my whole career as a junior. This is actually the first time that Ive gone live. It was a fast inning, faster than the rest of the game was. Pretty quick, one, two, three, out. That last throw wasnt all that accurate but it got there I guess. Were a really young team and were not big on the depth chart, but Im pretty confident. I think well eventually get somewhere.
Finishing up 8-7, Coach Pavusek seemed satisfied, although he did acknowledge the team has a long way to go. Its just a brand new team and there are a lot of question marks, Pavusek said. But then there are also a lot of opportunities for people to get a chance to play, so we can say that too. Its been a long time since we had a freshman catcher and an inexperienced catcher coming in with R.J. Then we have a freshman at short, weve got some inexperience in the outfield. Weve got kids pitching that have never pitched before. We just hope to get better each day, thats all we want to do, get a little better each day and learn a little baseball.