Tony Skole Dugout Digest (Issue 1)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Throughout the season, ETSU baseball head coach Tony Skole will share his thoughts and ideas about the team, which will be featured on CollegeBaseballInsider.com. This is the first installment of the Tony Skole Dugout Digest.

Written April 11, 2012

Here is the first Dugout Digest for 2012.  I apologize for it coming at the halfway point of our season.  I had been asked this winter to once again share my thoughts and ideas as our season progresses from a head coach’s perspective.  I agreed, as I have always enjoyed writing and sharing my thoughts, but this season I just haven’t felt the urge to put some of my thoughts down on paper.  To be brutally honest though, I was waiting for us to go on a nice winning streak to begin the Digest.  Well it just hasn’t happened (yet), so late last night as I peered through my pages of game notes through our first 30 games, I figured this would be a good time to go ahead and begin.

Interested parties can go to our website at ETSUBucs.com and get a full report and history of our results through the first half of the season.  So I won’t go through and give a complete breakdown of each and every game.  But I will give a quick assessment of where we are and what we are currently going through.

With our record currently standing at 15-15, obviously myself and our coaching staff are not pleased with our results thus far.  No team sets a goal at the beginning of a season to be a .500 ball club.  So obviously our goal for the second half of the season is to play much better and find a way for our players to win a bunch of games.

Our coaching staff has poured over every statistical category and tried to turn over every leaf, to understand and find the reasons when our club struggles and when our club has success.  The game of baseball has always been a game of numbers and statistics.  Many times these items don’t provide much insight and many times they can spell out exactly what the problem is.

We are fortunate that through the help of our outstanding Sports Information Director, Ryan Dunn, we can pull up just about any situation and scenario possible.  Anything from what our players/pitchers are doing in specific situations to even what our hitters are doing when they hit at a certain spot in the lineup.  It is all there for our analysis.

Anyone that has followed our season thus far would be quick to point our struggles on the offensive side, especially with runners on base and with runners in scoring position.  How bad has it been?  Well in our 12 Atlantic Sun Conference games we have had 30 more opportunities with runners in scoring position than our opponents (120 to 91).  This is good.   Yet our opponents have six more hits.  This is not so good.  We are hitting a paltry .150 (18 for 120) with runners in scoring position.  Ouch!  When you can’t get the big hit, it sure makes it difficult to win.

On the other side, our pitching and defense for the most part has been outstanding.  In every statistical category we are succeeding except for the amount of extra base hits we have given up.  Besides that, our pitching and defense has been keeping us in every ballgame we play.  This is the main reason our coaching staff still feels confident heading into the second half.  If we can continue to pitch and defend well, we will be in every game and if our offense begins to catch fire, we will be tough to handle. 

So in order for our second half of the season to improve somehow we have to fix this problem.  Now I have had many conversations with baseball people all over the world to get their opinion on how to hit better with runners in scoring position.  There is not a drill or something we can do in practice (besides actually putting a runner in scoring position during batting practice) to refine this skill.  Basically it just comes down to guys being clutch hitters and coming through in important situations during the game.

My old college coach, the legendary Chal Port always told us something when I played that has stuck with me throughout my career.  Coach Port would ask us, “Guys, you know who my favorite players are on this team?”  We would all then rack our brain and try to figure out who it was.  Thinking there was a magic formula or process he had for choosing his favorites.  He would then say it like only Coach Port could. “It’s pretty simple guys.  My favorite players are the SOB’s driving in all the runs.”  I didn’t realize it then but having coached for over 20 college seasons boy he sure was right.

As coaches, we are always looking for those guys who get it done when the heat is on.  In any sport these are the players that are always remembered.  Whether it is getting that big hit, making the final shot in hoops, throwing the touchdown pass in the 4th quarter or making the clutch putt on the 18th hole.  It takes a special individual to perform at their best, when their best is needed.  I believe it was John Wooden that defined competitive greatness as “being at your best when your best is needed.”

Back in August when our club got together for the first time we spoke about where we expected to be at the end of the season.  Well in getting to that final destination, we need to realize there is going to be pressure to perform throughout the journey.   But our guys must understand that whenever there is great opportunity, there is also pressure.  You can’t have one without the other.  We have to look at the things that have stood in our way thus far – execution, details and leadership.  We have to make a vow to make these areas strengths.  If we can do that then we will have earned the right to be where we expect to be at the end of our season.       

It was Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) – American Civil Rights Leader who said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  How true those words are still today.

Until Next Time…

TS7

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