Baseball can be a game of inches, but you can include doing the little things right and staying in the game mentally to the list of intangibles that separate winners from losers.
Cardinal Stritch’s baseball team got off to a 6-0 start this season, with wins over Woodmore, Ottawa Hills, Eastwood and Start. The Cardinals, however, have hit a rough patch.
Coach Craig Meinzer’s squad lost to Maumee, 4-1, last Saturday and followed that with 14-3 and 8-1 losses to Fremont Ross and Northwood, respectively, this week.
“We were getting the little things done and being consistent (early on),” Meinzer said. “We even played decent against Maumee. As of the last three games we need to find out why we are not doing the little things correctly or being mentally strong. We will figure it out and we will be a better team for it in the long run.”
|Cardinal Stritch Catholic senior Brooks Gasser beats the throw from Maumee pitcher Nick Kurtz, to first baseman Jow Szymanski during a pick-off attempt. Maumee won 4-1 at Mercy Field. (Press photo by Doug Karns/KateriSchools.org)|
Meinzer said injuries can’t be blamed for the Cardinals’ recent skid.
“We’re just not getting the basics done – base running, fielding, throwing, bunting, things like that,” he said. “A lot of mental mistakes.”
There is, of course, plenty of time for Stritch, which is 2-1 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, to right the ship. The Cardinals return just four full-time starters from last year, but they have eight seniors who, Meinzer said, “knew what it would take to win.” The coach said he’s waiting for “anyone” to step up and become a vocal team leader.
“We have 14 guys who are capable of playing different positions, and that makes us a stronger team,” Meinzer said. “We are so close in talent that it makes it hard to make out a lineup. The eight seniors and three juniors on the varsity know what it takes to win and work hard, and that is a bonus for this team. The sophomores are good players and will be good if they just go out and play the way they are capable.”
Stritch’s top two pitchers – Meinzer calls them pitchers 1A and 1B – are seniors Chase Dearing and Brooks Gasser. Dearing, a left-hander, is 1-1 with a 1.27 ERA and nine strikeouts in 11 innings. Gasser is 0-0 with eight strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA in 5.1 innings.
“They are both capable of being really good and will be pitching a lot the next couple weeks as we get deeper into the league,” Meinzer said. “We have four lefties on the varsity staff and two more at the J.V. level, and that is a luxury if they can continue to grow, get stronger mentally and physically, as well as learning what they need to do to be good pitchers.”
The Cardinals will also rely on senior closer Austin Pratt (three saves) and lefty Sean Killian (3-1) to help secure a TAAC championship.
“We’ve been pitching well and that kept us in the first seven games we played,” Meinzer said. “I knew we would have a good pitching staff, and they will get better as we move forward.”
Meinzer said Stritch’s hitters have made good contact and are getting on base, but they have not cashed in with enough consistency on the scoreboard.
“We need to play ‘small ball’ well and run the bases better,” he said, “but I still like our chances. We have not scored a lot of runs this season yet.”
The team’s top hitters through nine games are seniors Adam Buenrostro (.415), Josh Shefferly (.389), Jake Empie (.350) and Robert Johnson (.343).
“They hit the ball hard and have driven in a lot of the runs we’ve scored,” Meinzer said. “They have been in the system for the last three years and know what to do at the plate. They work hard at hitting.”
Leadoff hitter Grant Curavo, a sophomore, is hitting just .250 but has an impressive .631 on-base percentage.
“He is getting on base consistently and hitting the ball hard,” Meinzer said, adding that he is confident the Cardinals will finish strong.
“You always have work to do to get better if you want to win and compete,” Meinzer said. “Right now we need to work hard in all aspects of the game and good things will come. We definitely need to grow closer as a team and find a common ground that we can use to do that. Mental toughness is a major thing we need to work on.”