Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stepping Back

My second article of the week went liveon the STACK Media blog. This latest article was on the subject of hitting and inluded one of my favorite drills for balance, rythem and tempo. Click on the link for the full article.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lending a Hand

My latest article was published this week so I can finally give you the link. The article talks about hand speed and involves a drill that I started out using mostly with catchers and eventually infielders, but as the title suggests, it is great for any athlete. Click on the link for the full article.

Previous Articles

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Battle, Not the War

It has been no secret that I believe strongly in defense. Don't get me wrong, I understand the defense can't actually put runs on the board, but there is no substitute for run prevention. Despite the fact that most games are won or lost by capitalizing on opponents mistakes, there is still an overwhelming emphasis on run producing, not preventing. Here are a few stats from the Storm's 2012 season.

The Freebie War was a stat I payed quite a bit of attention to throughout the course of the season. The "freebies" participating in the war were all the walks or hit by pitches allowed by our starters, wild pitches or passed balls, balks, stolen bases allowed and errors committed in comparison to our opponents. It basically adds up any bases achieved that wasn't earned through a base hit. This does not include, though it probably should, bases allowed by throwing to the wrong base and allowing backside runners to advance.

In the Freebie War, the Storm went 23-24-3 overall. In the 23 times in which the Storm won the Freebie War, they compiled a record of 17-6 (.739). In the 3 games where they allowed the same amount as their opponent, they were a perfect 3-0, which makes a nice 20-6 record (.769) when equal or better in the Freebie War. As expected, the tables turn when losing a particular battle in the Freebie War. Lake Erie was 6-18 (.333) when giving up the bases.

The postseason is a different animal, in every respect, where anything can happen. With that said, the Storm was 0-2-1 during the GLIAC Playoffs where they allowed 15 more extra bases in three games. During the 50 game regular season, the Storm took 3 extra bases more than their opponents.

To give you a glimpse into how different the postseason is (and why small sample sizes don't always provide accurate reflections of how something actually is), Lake Erie won their first game while committing 3 errors and lost their final game where their opponent committed 5 errors.

As far as walks are concerned, Lake Erie allowed less walks than their opponent 23 times, more walks 19 times, and were at a stalemate 8 times. The numbers didn't quite show the benefit of not walking hitters when looking at the records, but this could be a result of many factors (errors, run support, or just getting hit around the yard). But the fact is Lake Erie won over 60% of their games (14-9) when allowing less walks than their opponent. If you add in the games where the walk totals were equal, the Storm went 20-11, winning nearly two-thirds of those games. In the remaining 19 games, the Storm was a dismal 6-13 (.316) when allowing even one more free pass than their opponent.

Looking at runs scored vs. runs allowed, the Storm magic number all year was four. In games when scoring 4 or more runs, the Storm went 20-9 (.690). When the Storm allowed 4 runs or less, they were 20-6 (.769). To give you an idea how important run prevention is compared to run production, the Storm went 6-2 in games when they scored double-digit runs. While that looks good on the surface, in all reality, it should be 8-0. I know there are aspects of the game in which cannot be controlled, but in games when run totals near the 20's, it becomes more about which team can stop the other as opposed to who can out-slug who.

Here's one last simple look at errors for the season. When Lake Erie committed less errors than their opponents, they went 13-3 (.813). When committing more errors, they were 6-14 (.300). I wish it were more complicated than that...actually, I don't. I love that it's that cut and dry. Pitch and play defense and you win. Period.

Thanks again to all those who supported us this season. Your support meant the world and our success wouldn't have meant as much on its own. We look forward to taking another step (or two, or three) next season. Keep checking back all summer for updates on everything Storm baseball on the blog and on Twitter (@thecoachscave). RAGE ON!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Playoff Diaries, Day 3: If It Had to End...

9:46 am - The day should have started earlier because we would be playing the second game of the day, but I skipped breakfast this morning. Not really in the mood to run into any of the other teams in the hotel. Not that there was any bad blood or anything, but it felt like a day to keep to myself.

11:15 am - We had a change of plans for the rest of our morning. Because of the hotel's policy of check-in, we had to pack our things and completely check-out of the hotel or be charged for another night. We had all the confidence in the world that we could win two games today and stay another night, but it wasn't the right move to pay for an extra day (if we lost) and hang around another night. Besides, the worst that would happen is we unload for one night after our second game. The rooms wouldn't be booked by anyone else so I didn't see it as a big deal. Considering the inappropriate behavior by another team in the hotel the night before (allegedly), we made the right decision.

12:01 pm - We made sandwich's in Coach McGee's in-laws room and gave one last look to our rooms, checking for any stealthy items which may have made their way out of our respective duffel bags and loaded the bus, possibly for the last time this season.

12:22 pm - We gathered our equipment and the position players got ready for cage hitting while the pitchers watched the end of a down-to-the-wire game between Grand Valley and Wayne State. WSU couldn't hold a one-run lead in the 9th and once GVSU tied and took the lead, added some insurance en route to a 6-4 victory, and a spot in the GLIAC title game on Saturday.

2:10 pm - It was win or go home as Logan Nordquist (@Logan_Nordquist) took the mound for game six of the tournament.

6:23 pm - Game tied at 6. Runners on 2nd and 3rd. 1 out. Bottom of the 15th. That was the scene as our season teetered on the brink of destruction (not for the first time either). As many times as we dodged the agony of defeat, we couldn't get out of the way of the last big red ball that was a suicide squeeze. It was a brilliant call. Never saw it coming. A left-handed hitter in the box, no way they would try that with such an easy view for the catcher. But if there ever was a time to try it, it was with a lefty on the mound who would have his back to the runner at 3rd. It was executed perfectly and I don't care how many times a team practices defending that play, if the offense executes it properly, there is no stopping it.

One of the gutsiest efforts I've seen in a long time (by both teams) was on display that afternoon. We had four different leads and three different chances to close out the game but couldn't seem to hammer in the final nail. This is very cliche, but this game revealed a lot of character in a lot of young men that will carry them through their lives long after they hang up their spikes. For the tournament to begin like it did in the bottom of the 9th on Wednesday, and to end like this in the bottom of the 15th on Friday, it was almost poetic justice. It feels like the baseball gods are telling us, "Yeah, you got a taste of how good it can be, but we're showing you the other side too. Remember this when you're here next year."

In no way does this make anyone who graced the 1st base dugout feel any better about the outcome, but it does serve as a reminder that much like life, this game plays no favorites but offers everyone the same opportunity to be great.

10:27 pm - The bus returned to campus and dropped the players off one last time. The campus was empty, much like the streets of Painesville when we pulled in the parking lot. Garbage bags circulated the aisles in efforts to render the bus spotless. Sacked lunches were disposed of, a few remaining Gatorades were chugged, and a few final instructions were given by the coaching staff. Uniforms were going to be turned in tomorrow at 9 am so in less than 12 hours, the 2012 season, and the careers of 11 seniors, would be officially over.

It was an absolute pleasure and joy to be a part of this record-breaking season. I would like to wish the seniors the best of luck in their future endeavours, while wishing the returners luck during summer ball in hopes they come back eager to test the uncharted waters of postseason greatness in 2013. I would like to thank all the parents, friends, families, students, and fans who supported this team all season. While playing this game is reward enough, your support made playing and coaching that much more enjoyable. Thanks for a great season and as always, RAGE ON!

Stay tuned throughout the summer for updates on Storm players in their summer leagues, and any other random thoughts about baseball on Twitter @thecoachscave.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Playoff Diaries, Day 2: Not Our Day

9:12 am - Today should have been exactly like yesterday...schedule-wise at least. Our game tonight was scheduled for 5:30 pm so we had all day to try and stay busy.

10:45 pm - We kept the routine pretty much the same as the day before so we left for the stadium to catch a few innings of the elimination game between Ashland and Saginaw Valley. SVSU got ahead early and added to their lead to survive and advance. There were a bunch of elementary school students at the game and for a second I thought it was Math Day: Part 2, but Glenn Stewart (@glflash15) didn't have anything to do with it and it turned out to be a field trip. I can remember going to some pretty cool places in school but I never went to a baseball game. I have to say I'm disappointed in that, but I've more than made up for it.

12:00 pm - We're back at the hotel with some more time to kill, which was accomplished by watching Horatio knock it out of the park with a little CSI: Miami.

3:30 pm - We left for the field a little later today because we lost the coin flip after our first game and now are the designated visiting team. There were two cages, one on each side, so the team was split in half and we could still get a good number of reps in the cage. We would occupy the first base dugout today which put us in the sun for the majority of the game. Fortunately, the temperature wasn't too high so it wouldn't make that much of a difference.

5:31 pm - The game prior to ours ended early so we were on schedule to start near 5:30. Grand Valley had knocked out Tiffin so we were the only Ohio team left. In 9 innings, we would know whether we would be in the winner's bracket finals or if we had to win our way into Saturday.

8:09 pm - We're on the bus heading to the hotel after a tough 6-1 loss to Wayne State. We struggled to get the big hit, or any for that matter. Our offense was held in check all day and we didn't quite have it on the mound either. Overall it was just a rough day at the yard. I wish I could say it was because we were on such an emotional high from last night's dramatic win, but we were just outplayed. Fortunately, like our Ohio counterparts Ashland and Tiffin, we still have an opportunity to play another game. We are scheduled for an afternoon game against Saginaw Valley, a team we split with during the regular season, at 2:30 pm. It's pretty simple, if we win, we play the winner of Grand Valley/Wayne State. If we lose, we go home. We'll see if there's more baseball tomorrow.

Stay tuned to @thecoachscave for updates during the day on the final days of the GLIAC tournament. RAGE ON!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Playoff Diaries, Day 1: What. Just. Happened?

8:07 am - I finally woke up after another night of waking up periodically. I have been fighting a head cold since Saturday and haven't slept through the night since. I was starving so I decided to head to the lobby for breakfast. Unlike our last hotel, this one actually had a continental breakfast so the players could get a decent meal to start the day. Our previous meal came last night during the All-Conference Awards picnic. This was definitely a new experience. This is the first time I have heard of a conference doing this sort of thing where they didn't just issue a press release. Which in it's own right is kind of cool, but the players on teams who did not make the playoffs were not in attendance, which I feel devalues the whole thing.

But Lake Erie had a strong showing with seven members selected to the 2012 All-GLIAC Teams. Bryan Cacique and Matt Toth (@MattToth9) earned 1st Team honors, while Adam Beach (@BeachAdam)Brian (@briankilway) and Pat Kilway (@patrickkilway) earned 2nd Team. Cody Blood (@cblood17) and Doug Fox (@dfox508) finished off the list being named to the honorable mention. Congratulations men on a great regular season!

9:19 am - Coach Sank and I got back from breakfast only to be blocked from entering our room. Housekeeping was busy at work making our beds. That's literally all they could do seeing how all we did was check in, watch TV, and go to bed. So we took in the morning breezes of Chillicothe.

11:15 am - We had a long day ahead of us mainly because we didn't play until 5:30 pm. This meant a day full of trying to find outlets for nervous energy. We left as a team to watch a few innings of the game one between Saginaw Valley and Wayne State. We got there in the 5th inning with SVSU leading 1-0. But a couple of 2-run innings along with a clutch bullpen hold in the 8th was enough for WSU to hold off a late rally by Saginaw and pick up a 4-1 win.

12:37 pm - We got back to the hotel after the game for some R&R before it was our turn to head to the park for real. The interesting thing about this tournament is that there isn't a host team so every team is staying in a hotel. The same hotel. Actually, there are three hotels that share a parking lot but all six teams are within 100 feet of each other. This could lead to some interesting confrontations depending on what happens on the field. Or, this could be a good lesson in sportsmanship.

2:09 pm - We had a team lunch in one of the conference rooms. We bought 10 pounds of lunch meat which lasted about 10 seconds. They were sliced extra thick so telling each player they could have three slices may have been a mistake.

3:00 pm - We loaded the bus ready to make the drive to the stadium for the greatest opportunity of this program's young history.

3:15 pm - The bus rolled up to the field with about 20 minutes to spare before we took BP in the cages. Since we weren't hitting on the field (there was a game currently in progress), the pitchers had to find something to do while the position players took their cuts. Fortunately, this is something pitchers are good at (wasting time), so that shouldn't be a problem.

4:05 pm - At about the same we were finishing our allotted 35 minutes of BP, Grand Valley was extending their lead over Ashland en route to a 5-1 win. We watched the rest of that game, waiting our turn to take the field. There was a lot of nervous energy still floating around the team, which is completely normal. They key for us (or any team for that matter) was to stick to our routines.

5:37 pm - The first pitch was a little behind schedule due to the previous game's slow finish. But Brian Kilway delivered the first pitch and we were underway.

7:39 pm - PANDEMONIUM! There is no other way to describe what transpired in the bottom of the 9th. Brian Kilway and Tiffin starter Jordan Liette were locked in a pitcher's duel with the Dragons clinging to a 2-1 lead, down to our last three outs. We had played well at times, creating run-scoring situations, but Tiffin kept making plays when they needed to. We stranded a runner at 3rd after a leadoff triple. We had the bases loaded with one out and couldn't muster more than a run. We kept knocking on the door but no one answered. No one, that was, until the 9th.

After our leadoff hitter that inning grounded out. Pat Kilway would have normally doubled to left, but Tiffin was in a "no doubles" defense and limited him to a single. Zach Mosbarger (@ZachMosbarger10) pinch-ran and Garrett Emling (@GarrettEmling) pinch-hit to set the wheels in motion. Garrett singled through the right side, even though I thought it was going to be a ground out because of the way Tiffin's first baseman, Jordan Chiero, had played defense on us all year. But the ball had enough backspin to navigate its way through the synthetic infield and allowed Mossy to get to third. That brought freshman Aaron Lindgren (@lindgren_87) to the plate. In his first GLIAC playoff game, he had hit a few balls hard, just right at someone. He quickly got down in the count 0-2. I wish I could say he just as quickly worked himself back in the count but there wasn't enough time. The next pitch would determine the outcome of the game when Lindgren launched a missile to centerfield which at the very least would have tied the game with a sacrifice fly. But the ball was misplayed in center, which allowed the tying run to score. Right on the heels of Mosbarger was Emling, who once the ball ricocheted off the centerfielder's glove, dropped his piano at second base and  made his way 270 feet to score the winning run. It was an unbelievable site because of the mob scene at home plate. The team immediately looked for Lindgren who was standing on third base.

The next few minutes are a blur in all reality. I know what just happened. It has been playing over and over in my head but I still can't believe it. I don't think anyone really can at this point. All I know is the program just witnessed its most unbelievable win in its first postseason game. Fortunately for us, Jimmie Shaw's (@JimmieShaw) dad captured the final play on video from his cell phone. Check it out here.

9:42 pm - The team met outside the conference room where we ate lunch earlier in the day to get our directions for tomorrow. We are scheduled to play Wayne State, a team who just last weekend took 3-of-4 from us in the D. But as much as the players are trying to listen to Coach McGee, they can't get past what they were a part of just hours before. There is still a buzz around the hotel. A buzz that started as a subtle aroma when the day started which transformed into a full-blown stench after the game. It will be awhile before most of us get to bed tonight. But thankfully, the alarms can be turned off.

Stay tuned to @thecoachscave for updates throughout the day. For live stats during tomorrow's game with Wayne State, check out the GLIAC Tournament home page. RAGE ON!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Playoff Bound!

It's been two years since I've been able to say this, but WE ARE PLAYOFF BOUND! There is a lot that goes with that statement and my hope is to be able to share that with you. Each trip to the postseason is different. My experiences as a player have differed from those as a coach. And each postseason trip as a coach has differed from the one before it. And I have no doubt this year's journey to Chillicothe will have something in store in which I have never seen. So with that said, I will be keeping a playoff journal over the next few days...hopefully much, much offer some insight into the best part of the season.

Stay tuned on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates throughout the tournament, well, not during games, for that you need to check out the GLIAC Tournament site. But for everything else, check out The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave. RAGE ON!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Muscle Up

Congratualtions are in order for freshman pitcher Russ Hogue being named GLIAC Pitcher of the Week. Russ was the second Lake Erie pitcher to receive the honors. Check out the full release by the LEC Sports Information Department below.

PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Lake Erie College freshman righthanded pitcher Russ Hogue (Belle Center, Ohio/Indian Lake) was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Pitcher of the Week by the league office on Monday (April 30).

It was the second time this season a Storm starter earned the honor after junior Adam Beach (Vermilion, Ohio/Vermilion) did so March 26th.

Hogue tossed the best performance of his young career with a complete-game shutout against Ashland University Wednesday. The right-hander needed just 94 pitches to retire the Eagles for his first college victory. Hogue scattered eight hits but walked just one batter and was in command the entire way in the 9-0 victory.

That win was the 22nd of the season for Lake Erie (24-20), setting a new school record for single season wins. The Storm enter the final week of the regular season, in second place in the GLIAC at 20-10.

In Other News:
Lake Erie will host it's annual Senior Day tomorrow, Wednesday, May 2, when the Storm welcomes in Ohio Dominican University. The ceremony honoring the 11 seniors will take place between games of the double-header. Game 1 will start at 2:00 pm. The ceremony should last approximately 25 minutes.

As far as the games are concerned, the Storm's magic number to clinch a playoff berth is down to one. Lake Erie swept a double-header against the Panthers back on April 11th in Columbus.

Stay tuned to The Coach's Cave Twitter feed @thecoachscave as well as the Lake Erie feed @lecsports for updates, box scores, full recaps, and live stats as the team closes out the regular season. #RageOn!