By VAN HOLLAND
PINETOPS – "I know we are going to make mistakes" is what first-year SouthWest coach Shelton Langley told his team after they were defeated 14-5 by the Nash Central Bulldogs in non-conference action Wednesday.
Langley has a young team with just three seniors and had six players on the field starting with a year or less of varsity experience. He has dealt with the youth all season and has seen lots of positive things come to light. Wednesday was no different, because he started players in different positions and a freshman who hadn't ever started on the varsity level at first base. The move came, because two players were out of town and one was injured.
"We had a lot of girls out of position today," Langley said. "I thought the ones who were moved around or who filled in did a good job for us."
Langley told his team after the game that he saw some good things and he was pleased to see there wasn't many mental mistakes.
The Cougars had plenty of physical mistakes though, but that is something Langley knows his team will be able to overcome with extra work. The Cougars committed five errors which allowed five runs to score. Three other runs scored on passed balls or wild pitches.
The balls that got by the catcher is something Langley said he could deal with, because he had sophomore Montana York behind the plate. She hasn't caught in two years and knew she would be rusty. She was able to stay within herself and control the game from behind the plate despite the three runs that scored on balls that got by her.
"We did a good job today not using the people out of position as an excuse," Langley said. "We did make some errors on some balls that should have had plays made on them."
Sophomore Sydney Gould took the loss, but it didn't come without effort. She walked six batters, but was effective around the plate. She gave up 14 hits and only five earned runs out of the 14 that scored.
Senior Dawson Gould was also out of position. She hasn't played infield in almost four years as a varsity player and had to play second and then was shifted to first.
The Cougars made the most of the situation and made some big plays during crucial times in the game. They made two comebacks early in the game, but the Bulldogs pulled away from them in the third when they sent 10 batters to the plate and six scored. The Bulldogs collected four hits that inning and the Cougars made two errors. The Bulldogs were able to score at least one run in every inning except the sixth.
SouthWest didn't go down without an offensive fight. They collected 11 hits of their own and were able to manufacture some runs playing small ball.
Freshman Logan Baker is a player that has impressed Langley over the last two games with small ball. Baker went 4 for 4 Wednesday with a RBI and every at-bat she reached on a bunt single. She is 8 for 8 during her last two games and Langley said that is something that has caught his eye.
"Logan has great speed and she uses it when she bunts the ball," Langley said. "She has done her job the previous two games."
Freshman Melanie Stanfield had never started a varsity game before and when she got the start at first she made the most of it. She went 1 for 2 with two RBI and Sydney Gould added two hits.
"Overall I was pleased with the performance of everyone," Langley said. "I am excited about next week because this gives us a little momentum going back into conference play because we played right with a great team today."
Langley feels his team has improved by looking back at the first time the two teams met and the Cougars didn't even score a run. This time with them putting up five runs against one of the top teams in 3-A is something to be proud about.
Langley feels his team has gelled together during the course of the season. With his team hitting the ball like they did Wednesday, he knows that is something that will help them down the stretch to make the playoffs.
"We have three conference games next week and I want us to carry this offensive attitude with us," Langley said. "We are fighting for a playoff spot and I believe we can make a push and make some positive things happen our way."
Langley has change some of the offensive approach down the stretch of the season to get more offense flowing. He has girls slapping the ball and bunting more to move runners over and to score more runs then what they had been scoring.
"We are a fast team and I think the small ball is going to help us," Langley said. "If you get girls on base and you can't move them over swinging away then we have to convert over to the small ball and that has worked for us."
SouthWest will be back in action 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when they host Farmville Central.