Young Cobras baseball team strive for consistency
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 17:10
This fall has been a time of transition for the Parkland Cobras baseball program and their head coach, Matt Kennedy.
Of the 36 players on his roster at the start of the semester, 21 are freshmen. Four are transfers and many of the sophomores returning experienced minimal amounts of playing time as freshmen.
Despite all the talent that the freshmen and returners possess, these Cobras have experienced many growing pains during this fall semester of college baseball.
“Practices have been like games. We’ve looked really good in some games and really good in some practices,” Kennedy said. “Then the next day, it doesn’t even look like that same team. That’s just part of having a young group.”
There are combinations of things that have lead to inconsistent play from the young club this fall, according to Kennedy.
Freshmen are adjusting to college life and a higher level of baseball, the coaching staff is throwing many new techniques at the pitchers and hitters and the players are learning to play with each other.
These issues are common among most junior college programs but are never more important than they are this year, considering the new wave of players coming in.
A big thing that Kennedy is stressing, with all these young talented hitters, is the idea of situational hitting and putting consistent good swings on pitches in the strike zone.
“Many of these kids that come in from the high schools have all been three, four, or five hitters,” he said. “They don’t bunt a lot, they’ve never really been asked to hit and run and move runners over.”
“That type of stuff is pressed upon,” Kennedy explained. “They’re starting to understand it, which is progress.”
The hitters and position players are not the only ones learning new coaches. The pitchers are also learning new coaches, dealing with changes in their roles and working on being more consistent.
“It’s tough because you may have been a starter your whole life and we’re asking you to come out and throw the fifth or sixth inning,” he explained. “Coming out of the bullpen is something they’re not used to doing.”
Due to the shorter and more sporadic schedule that is the fall, pitchers will receive less innings and hitters aren’t going to get as many at-bats. This makes it hard for the players to get in any kind of rhythm.
Only 18 games are scheduled for the fall for the currently 6-5 Cobras.
“We play so sporadically throughout the fall and we’re all about giving guys equal opportunities to play,” he said. “With that time off, it’s tough to find a rhythm and get into a groove.”
The hitters are not alone in facing difficulties finding a groove. The pitchers have struggled as well. Many have not been able to put together consecutive good starts.
Due to many of his pitchers having thrown in summer ball, Kennedy is limiting the innings, especially for his young guys. That makes it hard to put up the kind of numbers that they want.
“To have them come out and throw 35 innings in the fall is just not a smart thing to do right now,” Kennedy said.
Returning pitchers Jason Ziegler, Brett Haan, Jesse Remington and Will Polley look to lead a pitching staff that should be very good come spring.
An important part of the fall season for the Cobras is playing intra-squad games against each other. Coach Kennedy will divide up the teams evenly among his players and they will battle it out on the field.
He uses it as a measuring stick to see where his team is at.
“I’m really just seeing who can compete, perform well and win a spot,” he said, “That’s what we’re about.”
With a wide open infield this year, players such as Marvin Campos, switch hitter Johnny Herrera, Blake Hoveln, Brady Burns, Mitch Triglaff, Daryl Taube and Conner Currier along with returners Jack Wietlispach and Adam Casson look to solidify a starting spot.
Freshmen catchers Mark Munizzi, Ramon Valdez and Sam Wides are battling returner Nolan Wilson for the elusive catcher spot.
“The infield is definitely wide open but they’re learning and starting to play a little bit better together so it should be pretty good,” Kennedy said.
The Cobras outfield will be relatively inexperienced, even when the fall is over, due to the fact that it will only returns two players, Jack Wietlispach, who is currently seeing time at third base, and Joe Trennepohl.
“It’s kind of the same thing as the infield, we’re waiting for some certain guys to take that next step and win a job,” he said about his outfielders, “They work really hard.”
Others battling for an outfield spot are Alex Smith, who is currently making the transition from second base, and his second position change in a year with the Cobras, along with newcomers Angus Bills, Chase Armstrong, and Frankie Pichiotti.
Not only is the fall a time to win starting jobs, it’s an important time to improve a ball player’s individual game so they perform consistently during the spring when championships are won.
“We just have to learn to be more consistent with our approach and mentality,” Kennedy often reiterates to his team. “You have to work hard and have to get better and we’re in that process right now as a unit,”