Uphill Climb

Baseball team struggles as season wears on

Photo by Glenn Judah
Catcher Shane Darnofall is hitting .357 for the season.

By Devon Jeffreys

Going into this season, Flagler baseball coach Dave Barnett expected pitching to be his team’s strength. Instead, a 6.07 team earned run average has made it one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.

The Saints, 8-16, have struggled all season to find the consistency that any team needs to win.

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“We’ve just been kind of inconsistent in all our play,” Barnett said. “One game it’s pitching, the next game it’s leaving runners in scoring position and every now and then it’s some costly errors.”

For the Saints, the biggest surprise has been the struggles of a pitching staff that was touted for its depth. Coming off a season that saw only 10 pitchers take the hill all year, the Saints added a slew of pitchers to their roster in the off-season. So far, quantity has not equaled quality.

“Our pitchers have got to do a better job of working ahead of the hitters and making their pitches in hitter’s counts,” Barnett said. “We’ve pitched a little bit behind where each hitter is seeing too many balls. Then when we do get it in there. We’re just not making quality pitches.”

Photo by Glenn Judah
Pitchers Brandon Rapoza attempts a pickoff pitch.

The Saints’ top three starters this season — Austin Donmoyer, Brandon Rapoza and Tim DeSutter — have a combined 6.48 earned run average in 15 starts this season. They have combined for a record of 3-9.

“We need to look back at the mistakes we’ve made in the past few games and change it, what we’re doing,” Donmoyer said. “We’re definitely not making the pitches we want to make and not getting outs when we need to. It gives the other team so many more chances to score.”

Opponents have taken advantage of those opportunities. The Saints have allowed 150 runs this season, 31 of which have been unearned, meaning not only have the Saints been struggling on the hill, their defense has seen better days as well. The team has committed 49 errors so far, an average of over two per game.

“Our outfield play has not been good,” Barnett said. “Part of it is we’ve got some guys out of position. But we need their bats.”
Barnett has been playing a converted catcher, Payne Maddox in center field and a first baseman, Kenny Ray in left field.

Maddox is currently leading the team in average at .361. His 10 doubles lead the team and he has 11 runs batted in. Ray is batting .322 with two home runs and 19 RBIs, and has been pleased with his move to the outfield so far.

“I wanted to do it,” Ray said. “I talked to one of our assistants and I asked him if there was anyway I could get in the outfield. I wanted to be out there. I played a couple games out there last year (at Lake Sumter Community College).

Ray’s move to the outfield has made it easier for Barnett to get first baseman Billy Johnson into the lineup. Johnson is hitting .349 this season and has been a pleasant surprise for the Saints offense.

“He’s hitting the ball and playing a good first base,” Barnett said. “He’s been a nice addition to the lineup, that’s for sure.”

Providing the power for the Saints has been designated hitter Wade Lamont. Lamont is hitting .342 and leads the team in home runs (6) and RBIs (22). Overall, the Saints have six hitters batting over .300 and five with over 20 runs scored.

Seemingly, offense has been the strong point for the Saints this season. They are hitting .282 for the season and have scored just six fewer runs than opponents.

Photo by Glenn Judah
Gary Lohmann warms up in the bullpen.

The Saints returned home this weekend for the first two of 12 consecutive home games.

“The one positive thing is we’re going to be at home for the next month,” Barnett said. “We’ve got one or two road trips the rest of the month. We’ve been traveling all over the place. That takes a toll. It’ll be nice to be in the confines of our own ballpark. Hopefully we’ll get on a little bit of a roll here.”

Through their first 24 games, the Saints had played just nine at home, posting a 4-5 record. On the road is where the team has struggled with a 4-11 record.

“We knew this was an ambitious schedule going in,” Barnett said. “We’re playing a lot better teams than we’ve played. We see where our deficiencies are and what we’ve got to do to compete with those kind of teams.”

Barnett has also made it clear that the players will have to earn their time on the field.

“It’s about being consistent and coming to play everyday and wanting to be good everyday,” Barnett said. “I’m not saying they don’t want to be good. There comes a time when, as a coach, performance is what we’re looking for and we’ve got to have some guys performing better than they’ve been performing. If that doesn’t happen, it opens the door for other guys to have that opportunity.”

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