Improving Poland shuts down Girard
POLAND — Coming into the season, Poland’s baseball team had very little varsity experience. While still nowhere near where coach Richard Murray wants them to be, the Bulldogs continued their growth, earning a 5-1 victory over Girard in a Northeast-8 Conference contest Monday.
“I thought our pitcher did a nice job,” Murray said. “We scored early, and then we kind of put the bats away a little bit. The kids did a good job, but we’ve got to hit better and put the ball in play more often.
“I was happy with the way (Anthony) Perry pitched, just not hitting it good enough right now. The defense played well tonight. We moved some guys around and got them in different positions, just trying to figure things out.”
The phrase “figuring things out” has been uttered by most coaches in the area after the 2020 season was canceled. This applies extra to Poland, where the lineup had a combined six innings of varsity experience coming into the year.
Monday’s win over Girard marks the team’s third win in a row after dropping the prior six contests. For Poland, it’s just a matter of getting its confidence back after facing two of the top pitchers in the area during that six-game skid.
“We’ve faced a lot of good pitching,” Murray said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. We kind of lost our confidence hitting because we faced (Brandon) Mikos from South Range. We faced (Mitchell) Seymour from Springfield, and those guys are just good. I mean anyone’s gonna have trouble hitting off guys like that, so I think we lost our confidence. We just need to get hot and get some hits and gain some confidence.”
Losing confidence at points is to be expected for an inexperienced team like Poland.
After winning the district title — earning a 20-7 record — in 2019 and then dealing cancellation of the 2020 season, the Bulldogs (7-8, 6-3) returned zero letterwinners to the field this year. Fifteen games into the season, Murray thinks the pieces are there, it’s just a matter of assembling them.
“Not playing last year, it’s like another learning process. Then, on top of that, all the good pitching we faced and not taking good approaches at the plate, it’s all kind of led to us not hitting the ball real well, but I think we’re starting to come out of it a little bit,” he said. “We hit some shots today at some guys that made some nice catches for them. Hopefully things will start turning around for us before the tournament here.”
Anthony Koulianos led Poland at the plate with two hits and two RBIs. Koulianos scored Evan Hegarty and Bryce Barringer in the bottom of the first to get Poland off to a quick 2-0 lead.
Senior Jayden Maggs scored the only run for the Indians, getting Girard on the board in the top of the fifth.
“Four unearned runs, and it’s simple math, we lose 5-1 with four unearned runs,” Indians coach Aaron Alejars said. “To start the game, we gave up three errors in the first inning. We just didn’t play to our capability. I don’t want to say that we weren’t ready to play, and that’s the difference in the ballgame sometimes. So you can’t take anything for granted.
“You got to make those routine plays a lot of times in high school baseball. A lot of times the team that doesn’t make those routine plays comes out on the short end of the stick.”
Girard is fresh off returning from a 10-day shutdown, so the Indians (3-7, 2-5) are still trying to find their bats. They’ve been playing a lot of “small ball” this season, so falling in holes early in their games have been a major pitfall for the team.
“Playing small ball, you fall behind three or four sometimes,” Alejars said. “We can be a team that has got a couple guys that run well and good, but when you fall behind three, four or five runs against a good team, outs are going to be at a premium.
“You don’t want to give an out to play small ball, so we haven’t been able to do that because we’re just not getting enough hits and just driving the ball to the outfield and the gaps, so we’ve been really struggling with our bats.”
The teams play again tonight at Girard. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
“We have to come out ready to make the first play,” Alejars said. “We’ve got to be able to hit the ball, put two or three hits in a row and just play a clean game defensively. Let’s see if we can have better at-bats, and then let’s see what can happen.”