Over the past two weeks, Long Reach baseball coach Brian Wyman has noticed a drift within his team’s offensive approach. Instead of stepping to the plate with an opportunistic, aggressive mindset, timidness has been taking control.
It’s shown in the box scores, as the Lightning had plated just eight runs in their three games leading into Monday’s contest at Hammond. So Wyman drilled home belief in his banged-up squad, hoping it would give them a jolt in the batter’s box.
“These guys have to trust themselves,” Wyman said. “We have a really talented group of guys, it’s just about them believing in themselves.”
Sure enough, Long Reach plated four runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back on the way hammering host Hammond, 13-3, in five innings on Monday. Long Reach (4-7 overall) compiled 12 hits on a day that marked its highest offensive output to date.
“Today, guys were aggressive,” Wyman said. “It was green light until it wasn’t. They were on top of it. They hit the fastballs and stayed on the curveballs. We drove the ball today.”
Wyman’s mantra paid dividends from the get-go. Four of the first five batters reached base for Long Reach and Brandon Bartolotta nudged them ahead, 1-0, after scoring on a passed ball. After loading the bases and seeing two fastballs and a changeup, Brendan O’Reilly guessed correctly on a fastball to drive in three runs on a loud, two-out double to officially get Long Reach off and running, 4-0.
“It was right and inside, and I found a spot with it,” O’Reilly said.
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Before starting pitcher Andy Lotz even stepped onto the mound, he had a four-run cushion to lean on, which kick-started an efficient day. Lotz recorded every out but the last one in a 4.2-inning, 73-pitch effort, allowing just five hits and two earned runs. He also struck out four.
“You definitely feel more confident pitching up there [with a four-run lead],” said Lotz, who utilized his mid-70s fastball, changeup, and curveball effectively to keep the Golden Bears at bay.
Long Reach tacked on three more runs in the second thanks to Cooper Haberern’s three-run triple to swell the lead to 7-0 and another in the third to make it 8-0. Hammond got in the board in the bottom of the third on a Collin Kosakowski groundout RBI, but Long Reach continued to stay aggressive. Alex King and Justin Banks answered with home runs in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, making it 9-1 and 13-3 to polish off a day Wyman has waited for.
The Lightning, nursing multiple injuries and playing with just 13 players, won’t have much time to relish the result, as they host Centennial Tuesday, travel to Marriotts Ridge Wednesday, and cap a four-game week against Glenelg on Friday.
“We told our guys, ‘It’s time to fire up,’ ” Wyman said. “This is a good start to a four-game week.”
Hammond (1-11 overall), meanwhile, drops its 11th straight. The Golden Bears’ lone win came nearly a month ago, on March 25 in the first game of the season. Fortunately, seven games remain for Coach Casey Medairy and his bunch to right the ship and end the season on a high note.
“It’s been a long season,” Medairy said. “This is when all the work in practice, and I know it doesn’t always show in the games, has to turn on because if it doesn’t, we’re running out of time. The effort has to be there. The enthusiasm has to be there. All the little things we’ve been harping on to do right, this is the time to execute. There are no excuses anymore.”