Midseason surge helps team leave tough start in the past
By Devon Jeffreys | email@example.com
A 10-game losing streak that stretched across 20 days in February would have knocked many teams down but for the Flagler baseball team, it served as motivation.
Now, with just ten games left in the 2008 season, the Saints sit at 22-17, seemingly headed toward an above .500 finish.
“When we were 3-10, I did not expect us to win 21 games all season, that was a shocker,” third baseman Joey Rivera said. “Pretty much we all just do our part and it helps.”
Timely hitting and quality pitching have been the name of the game for the Saints in winning 19 of their last 26 games to take their season back from the brink.
“At the start we were all doing our own thing,” second baseman Travis Coverston said. “Now we’re all playing together as one.”
Leading the charge for the Saints has been a pitching staff that has pieced itself together as the season has gone on.
Junior Austin Donmoyer has taken the role of ace in stride, posting a 3.81 ERA in 11 starts this season.
“When we were 3-10, we could have said ‘alright, this season is over.’ But we’ve got a lot of fight in us,” Donmoyer said. “Everyone in the dugout said ‘We’re going to turn this around right now, we’re not going to let this go any further’.”
Donmoyer has 56 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched for the Saints.
Keying the Saints out of the bullpen have been Brandon Rapoza and Wes Burgess.
Rapoza has allowed just four earned runs over 29.1 innings for an ERA of 1.23. After struggling to find his role last year, Rapoza has found himself as the team’s closer and has six saves on the season.
Burgess, who has served as both a starter and reliever this year, has posted a 3.00 ERA in 13 appearances.
“They’ve pitched as well as they can pitch and as well as we support them, run wise,” coach Dave Barnett said.
Offensively, the Saints continue to follow the lead of leadoff hitter Kenny Ray. Ray leads the team in average, hits, runs scored and steals and is a catalyst for the team offensively.
“I get on base. Just make things happen,” Ray said. “At the start of the game you pretty much set the tone of how we’re going to hit.”
Ray has set the tone for the Saints who have scored 10 or more runs in 7 games this season.
“Your leadoff hitter should be a guy with a great on base percentage,” Rivera said. “Someone who battles with two strikes and doesn’t really strike out too much. (Kenny) does that. His aggressiveness helps him get on base.”
Rivera, a transfer to Flagler, has followed Ray in the two hole in the lineup for much of the season. Rivera has hit 5 home runs this season and believes that Ray’s propensity for getting on makes his job as the following hitter easier.
Saints designated hitter Billy Johnson is also enjoying a breakout season behind Ray in the third position. Besides Ray, Johnson, is the only Saints regular with an above .300 average.
Cleanup hitter Glenn Kiture has hit a team leading seven home runs and has 25 runs batted in. Kiture has provided a spark in times of need for the Saints. Yet the Saints hitters as a whole haven’t been as productive as Barnett had expected entering the season.
“The tough thing is we aren’t hitting as well as a team this year as we did last year,” Barnett said.
As a team, the Saints have batter just .255, but have still managed to win games on the strength of timely hitting and pitching.
The Saints biggest Achilles heel has been their play on the road. They have thrived at home, going 20-4 but have won just two of 13 road games this year.
“We just never really get it going, I guess,” Kiture said. “I really don’t have any answers. Sometimes we show hitting, defense and pitching and then we just have a one-inning collapse that we don’t have at home. I really don’t know.”
Though the Saints home and road splits are a mystery, the Saints have just three road games remaining and their final seven games come at the friendly confines of Flagler Stadium.