February 8, 2009
CALEDONIA -- It''s never too early to execute the fundamentals.
The little things like baserunning, communicating on catching high pop ups, throwing strikes, and knowing what you''re supposed to do when fielding a bunt were magnified Saturday in the Caledonia Jamboree at Tommy Smith Field.
Some coaches -- like Hamilton''s Lewis Earnest -- came away pleased, while others -- notably New Hope coach Sonny Hester -- probably would have liked to have erased Saturday''s efforts from his memory.
"I thought we threw the ball well," said Earnest, whose team beat New Hope 5-0 and Caledonia 8-0 in four-inning games. "I think we might have walked one (against New Hope). We also put the ball in play. Hitting is usually a little behind pitching this early in the year. I was afraid we weren''t going to hit it very well and that we were going to strike out more. We did a good job putting the ball in play and gave ourselves a chance to do some things."
Cody Crouch had a two-run double and Isaac Winders added a solo home run to spark the Lions against the Trojans.
Chase Reeves and Dylan Earnest combined to limit New Hope to two hits.
In its second game, Austin Earnest and Devin Hopper combined for the shutout. Hopper had a home run and Crouch added a two-run double to help Hamilton prepare for its opener at 4 p.m. Friday against Smithville in the Monroe County Tournament at Amory High.
Earnest didn''t have to worry about his team''s lack of execution on the fundamentals in the first game.
"You worry about those things early in the year because you just haven''t had the opportunity to be in a game situation and do it," Earnest said. "We work on it in practice, but it is different. That is why you play these little jamborees to catch our mistakes and to work on then. We didn''t make many, so, hopefully, we can continue to do that."
Hester, though, was none too pleased with his team''s performances in a tie to Houston and in the loss to Hamilton.
"We have a lot of work to do," Hester said. "A lot of kids have to grow up. You would think that with a lot of juniors and seniors that we would have a lot better mental approach to the games, but we have a lot of guys who, I guess, are not ready to play. We just did not do a lot of things right."
Hester was hard pressed to explain why the Trojans ran themselves into outs on the basepaths and failed to communicate on a high popup between shortstop and left field and on another infield popup.
He said New Hope worked hard for a month leading up to the jamboree only to deliver eight innings of baseball that he felt looked like they hadn''t practiced at all.
"At the plate, we looked like we never swung the bat before," Hester said. "We have pitchers who after a month of bullpen work looked like they had never thrown to a mitt. But it is early. It just opens your eyes. In our case, it is a big eye-opener, because we have some kids we''re depending on who are going to have to step up."
Hester credited Reeves and Earnest for strong showings. He said he wanted to see how well his players fared against two strong left-handed pitchers.
Unfortunately, the Trojans didn''t muster much offense or do much of anything to please Hester.
"I am kind of surprised we didn''t compete any better," Hester said. "We preach all of the time that you just have to go out and compete hard. That is not what we do. I am sure a lot of people are going to say, ''New Hope wasn''t very impressive,'' and we weren''t. That is not what our history is made up of, and I don''t expect it to happen that often. If it doesn''t, you''re going to see a lot of people rotate around. We just have to go back to school and do a little bit more practicing."
Even though his team surrendered a two-run home run in the final inning and tied Columbus 3-3, Caledonia coach Sam Adams was pleased with his team''s first game. He said the Confederates executed when they were asked to bunt, but they need some of their younger players to work out the nerves to get more comfortable at the plate.
Adams also was pleased with the efforts of pitchers Tyler Pounders and Sy Hooper.
"They left a couple of balls up and when you leave them up against the bigger hitters they are going to hit it out," Adams said. "If we get the ball down on the bigger guys, we''ll be fine."
Columbus'' Nick Durrah delivered the two-run home run off Hooper to help the Falcons earn the tie. They defeated Houston 7-1 in their first game of the day.
"We played very well and really mistake free in the first game," Columbus coach Jeff Cook said. "I thought we lost a little focus in the second game and had some mental errors and some little things that you kind of expect in the first scrimmage game. Overall, I am very pleased."
Cook said he was especially pleased with the effort of his pitchers. He purposely didn''t pitch his No. 1 and No. 2 starters, opting instead to get help develop some of his other pitchers with the hope that they will be able to emerge later in the season.
Senior Billy Autrey pitched the final inning to simulate what it will be like for him this season in moving to a closer/reliever role.
"I like the way Billy came in and just kind of shut people down," Cook said. "That is what we want him to do this year."
Autrey also had a solo home run in the first inning against Pounders.
"We had some big hits," Cook said. "We had a big home run in the second game that makes you feel good going into next weekend."
Columbus plays host to the Columbus Classic on Friday and Saturday. Caledonia will play Mooreville at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by New Hope vs. Columbus at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday''s three-game set begins at 11 a.m.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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