With pitchers ailing, weight falls on shoulders of Saints’ potent bats
By Devon Jeffreys | firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming off a 25-27 record in 2007, the Flagler Saints baseball team is primed to improve on a season they believe was not near good enough.
“We were pretty disappointed with last year’s season, a sub-.500 season,” junior pitcher Austin Donmoyer said. “We realize coming into this season that the competition is just going to get harder and harder.”
The Saints are off to a 3-6 start to the 2008 season and have relied heavily on their offense. Leading that offense has been senior first baseman Kenny Ray.
His .359 average is second on the team, and his seven runs scored and seven runs batted in are team highs. Ray is also 4-5 in stolen base attempts.
“I love stealing bases,” Ray said. “I never got to do it in high school, but now I get to do it here.”
Ray was installed as the leadoff man for the Saints this season because of his propensity to get on base and steal.
“He’s off to a fantastic start,” Saints Coach Dave Barnett said. “In baseball the leadoff guy is the one who sets the tone for the game. He’s been able to do that for us every game. It’s unusual to have a first baseman leading off, but he’s an athletic, speedy first baseman.”
The Saints have also counted on freshman center fielder Joey Kampfer and junior transfer third baseman to produce runs. Each has scored six times and Rivera has blasted two homers.
It’s the defense of the two players, however, that has most benefitted the Saints.
“We’ve run balls down in center field,” Barnett said. “Kampfer is a freshman center fielder we brought in and he’s been a big boost. The last couple years we just haven’t had the speed in the outfield that we need to have, especially at our field.”
Rivera was brought in to shore up defense at third base, a position where the Saints had 30 errors last season.
“He’s an incredible baseball player,” shortstop Cale Owen said of his teammate Rivera.
Owen is looking to build off a strong freshman season in which he batted .313 and scored a team high 42 runs.
The strong offense and sure defense have compensated for a pitching staff that is thin starting out the season.
“We’ve just got to keep hitting,” Ray said. “We knew we were going to have to score a lot. Every single person has to step up.”
The Saints have struggled with tired arms on a pitching staff that is still trying to piece itself together.
“Right now we’re putting a Band-Aid over our staff,” Barnett said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys injured.”
Junior J.D. Goryl was being looked at as a potential ace before he was sidelined with tendonitis.
“He’s on the shelf for a couple weeks,” Barnett said.
Also on the list of walking wounded for the Saints are sophomore Michael Armistead and freshman Jonathan Armold with sore arms. J.W. Deighton and Adam Jaudon are both done for the season needing Tommy John elbow surgery. Gary Lohmann is also rehabbing to work his way back to the team.
“We’re battling a very thin pitching staff,” Barnett said. “Numbers wise it’s a large pitching staff, but usable pitchers, it’s really small.”
The Saints started the season by reeling off three straight victories against Alabama-Huntsville. They dropped the fourth game of the set and have lost their last five since.
“We’ve got to try to prevent what happened last year when we were a streaky team,” Donmoyer said.
The Saints had another injury scare during Donmoyer’s first start of the year. The junior dove off the mound for a batted ball and landed on his non-throwing elbow. Donmoyer said the injury wouldn’t keep him out.
“I hyper-extended it,” he said. “With treatment and therapy, it’s good to go.”
Alongside Donmoyer, senior Wes Burgess is being looked at to hold down the staff. Burgess won the Saints’ first game of the season before taking the loss in a 15-10 defeat at the hands of defending NCAA Div. II National Champion University of Tampa.
“As the year goes on I think we’ll get in better shape as we keep going through the season,” Burgess said. “We’ll get back healthy.”
Barnett said the team’s biggest surprise on the staff has been junior transfer Tony Kirkland.
Kirkland was a hard luck loser in the Saints only loss to Alabama-Huntsville.
He went seven innings allowing just one unearned run, but didn’t receive run support and the bullpen took the loss.
“We just want to be competitive in D-II baseball,” Kirkland said. “I think a lot of people underestimate us, so we’d like to prove people wrong. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”