Losing sucks. Plain and simple. Growing up, you learn the old cliche that “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” and while this is a true statement referring to how to handle a loss, there isn’t an athlete on earth who doesn’t feel accomplished after a loss. This was how I felt on Sunday, February 5th when Quaker baseball suffered a 19-0 loss at the hands of Piedmont College.
Even though this score resembled that of a football blowout, there were two big reasons not to panic. First off: Baseball is a crazy game where blowouts between talented teams happened from time to time; and secondly: we got the chance to redeem ourselves the next day in the second game of the series. Game Two was the game where I was slated to make my season debut and I couldn’t think of a better situation in which to make it.
When the last out was made on Sunday, I was already ready to go for Monday. Unfortunately, as the schedule would have it, I had to wait about 20 hours to get my crack at Piedmont. When Monday morning came around, I felt more than ready. I had a 10 a.m class on Health Economics that morning and I’m glad I wrote down everything that was on the whiteboard because there was very little listening going on as baseball dominated my brain during that hour and fifteen minute class. I left class, grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the locker room about three hours before game time where I discovered a new pregame ritual.
During pregame, most players will listen to music on their iPod, watch Sportscenter, or just talk sports until it’s time to hit the field. My way of putting my mind at rest before the first start of the season: Reading Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal. In a way, it was refreshing to have my mind leave the sports world for 15-20 minutes before heading back out into that world for the next couple of hours.
After I suited up and headed out to the field, I spent my first 20 minutes simply watching Piedmont take batting practice. As a pitcher, this is one of the best times to get a gauge for your opponent before a game. After all, if a player is having trouble hitting a certain pitch being thrown half-speed in practice, they are going to have a lot more trouble hitting that same pitch at full speed in a game. Following the typical pregame routine of shagging flyballs, tossing, and warming up in the bullpen, I no longer felt anxious, nervous, or angry. I felt ready. As I have said in a previous article, the first thing I said to myself as I stepped on the mound on Monday was, “Zach, you’ve done this a million times.”
The line for the day included 6.0 Innings, 2 Hits, 2 Runs, 1 Earned Run, and 3 Strikeouts. Overall, a solid day on the mound but despite the positive result, there were some aspects of my performance that needed to be improved and were addressed in practice this past week. I had a few too many walks in the game and had several streaks where I was having trouble finding the strike zone but these were issues that can simply be attributed to still being early in the season.
Monday ended with the Quakers winning the rematch against Piedmont 12-3. Seven of those 12 runs came in the bottom of the first inning after Piedmont snuck a run across in the top half. Walking out to the mound in the second inning with a 7-1 lead is one of the biggest confidence boosters a team can give to a pitcher and for that, I thank the hitting corps. This win was the textbook definition of a team effort and after the 19-0 loss on day one, it was a win that the Quakers really needed.
Next opponent: Averett