It was not how the Lions baseball team wanted to start off the Sky-Em season. A 12-1 loss at home last Tuesday marked the team’s fourth loss in a row and had the team questioning the trajectory of the season before going on to beat Elmira twice in a double-header last Friday.
“We’ve just got to have the kids come out and compete and we had a lot of kids in the last week miss a lot of time with practices and games and that kind of sets the tone of where we’re at right now,” Geiszler said after Tuesday’s loss. “I think there’s a lot of kids who think it’s just okay. And that it’s not going to affect them or their teammates when they miss. And I think we’re learning a bit about responsibility and accountability.”
Against the Tigers (7-4) the Lions hung around in the first couple innings and in the third inning, four Cottage Grove batters were either hit by a pitch or walked but the team scored just one run in the inning. At the top of the fourth inning, Junction City then took off and scored six runs.
“You know, the game was out of hand but it was close until the fourth inning and if we have a big inning in the bottom of the third,” said Geiszler before trailing off.
“And who knows how that changes things. There’s always, especially in 4A baseball and baseball in general, there’s always one or two moments that can totally change a game one way or the other. And that was one of them. And then the rundown play that was another big one, the overthrow at third.”
With an out in the inning, the Lions had a Junction City runner in a pickle between third and home but an overthrow from home to third resulted in a run for the Tigers. This error was one of eight errors in the game that came from six different players. The team has also struggled running the bases this year which is out of the ordinary for Cottage Grove.
“Yeah, this is pretty uncharacteristic of our baseball team to run the bases like we have. Very uncharacteristic. Usually we’ve been such a good baserunning team and it’s something we’ve prided ourselves on and worked on. Maybe it’s because they’re not on base very much and it’s something different. I don’t know,” said Geiszler.
“But we’ll keep working at it. And we’ll work until the day they tell us we’re done. So that’s our mentality that they got to get better. I told them I’m not worried about who we play next. Doesn’t even matter. We’ve just got to come and get better. Back to basics and get better.”
On a team that has seven sophomores on the 17-man roster, Geiszler notes that there is a level of uncertainty across the team.
“This group is a little different because we just have a lot of kids that don’t understand the game. They don’t understand where to be, it’s not a natural thing for them.”
Despite any woes, the Lions were able to get back on track on Friday as they defeated Elmira (3-7) twice in a double-header on the road.
In the first game, worries about baserunning were put to rest as the Lions came away with 10 steals on the game including three from Hunter Sharkey in an 8-4 win. Cottage Grove had just two hits in the game. Conner Browning was credited with the win for the Lions as he pitched six innings and struck out six batters.
In the second game of the day, Cottage Grove walked away with a 5-4 victory. Cottage Grove had six hits in the game including two from Wyatt Sayles. The Lions used a committee of pitchers with Koltin Britton pitching three innings and Sayles and Jaxon Simmons each on the mound for two innings. Britton struck three batters out.
Coming into the game, Geiszler was just looking for his team to get confidence, something they gained from Friday’s pair of games.
“I think our kids need some confidence for one. I just think they need some confidence. We are fairly young, and that’s not an excuse whatsoever,” said Geiszler. “We have a lot of kids that have not been in this situation and understanding and gaining that confidence and oh, I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. And we’ve preached it a lot. If you don’t have confidence, no matter what else you do it won’t matter.”