by Eric Oslund
The Rogers baseball team had a good day at the plate Wednesday, and usually that is all they can hope for as the strength of their team is their pitchers and defense.
So for Tanner Palm to lace a 2-run triple in the first, and Brennan Unruh to get a 2-run home run in the fourth to give their team six runs total was a blessing. Unfortunately, though, the areas of their game that tend to be their bread and butter suddenly went stale when Brainerd came to town.
“We didn’t pitch good and we didn’t play good defense,” head coach Brian Harapt said. “That’s the trademark of our team and when you don’t do those two things then it makes it a pretty hard road.”
The Royals have two pitchers in their rotation who could be considered a No. 1 guy, and most teams are lucky to have one player like that. So when Mitch Spilles wasn’t on his mark and Harapat took him out in the third, no one seemed to worried.
Everyone knew Shawn Watercott was coming in, but the problem was that he was missing a lot of his marks as well. Whatever it was that Brainerd was doing at the plate was clearly working as they just continued to hang around, never trailing by more than two runs.
“You’re talking about two guys with ERAs – one of them under 2.00 and one I hear over 2.00. We don’t give up more than two or three runs a game,” Harapat said. “Unfortunately, none of our guys were really sharp and we certainly didn’t do anything on defense to help anybody out.”
Then came the seventh inning. Brainerd held a 1-run lead and sophomore Gavin McLaughlin found himself on the mound, pitching in relief of two pitchers who are often able to throw complete games every time they take the field.
McLaughlin pitched well, but the problem was that the defense behind him recorded error after error, which eventually led to their opponents scoring four runs in the inning.
“You ask a sophomore to go get six outs in the last inning, they’re going to score some runs,” the head coach explained. “Not much else you can do. We had two chances there to shut them out in that inning, and we just didn’t make plays.”
They Royals would end up losing the game 11-6, and all they could hope for following that performance was to hit the reset button and forget all about it.