A terrific trip to Myrtle Beach over spring break has turned Fitch's baseball season in a positive direction.
The Falcons won four games last week en route to an appearance in the semifinals of the Mingo Bay Classic. Despite disappointingly losing that semifinal contest 6-5 in nine innings to a team from West Virginia, head coach Wally Ford was impressed with how his boys blew up on the beach.
"(The trip) really went well," said Ford a day after returning home. "Things weren't going really well before we left, but we righted the ship a little."
The ship was sent on a steady course because the Falcons played much better in the field at the beach than it had in previous weeks locally. Losses to Niles and Poland a couple weeks ago were caused partially by shabby glove work by Fitch's defenders. That was not evident in the Mingo Bay Classic.
"We started playing good defense," said Ford happily. "We made too many mental mistakes versus Poland and Niles, but in three of the games (in Myrtle Beach) we had zero errors."
There has been steady improvement by the Falcons defense at almost every position around the diamond. Coach Ford made it a point to pinpoint the players who have excelled in the field.
"Zack Miller has been doing a nice job at third base," Ford stated. "Alex Sierra is pretty slick at second base. Scott Pierce has played well at shortstop. The three outfielders, Shane Vitullo in left, Kevin Sierra in center and Anthony Paris in right have been solid too."
Fitch also had a ton of top performances on the mound in Myrtle Beach, which lifted coach Ford's confidence in his starting rotation.
"Our pitchers were throwing strikes," he announced. "We wanted to see (the pitching staff) do well down there."
Alex DiFrancesco set the tone for the Falcons when he picked up a complete game victory over hometown favorite Georgetown 16-2 on April 10. The Bulldogs scored first and had some runners on base early in the game, but DiFrancesco did the job to escape trouble.
"(DiFrancesco) worked his way out of some jams," Ford said. "He is pretty close to being our number one (starting pitcher)."
Austin Cooper has been at the top of Fitch's rotation for most of the season, but has struggled in recent starts. That didn't stop him form becoming a strikeout machine in the Mingo Bay.
"Cooper pitched really well with a complete game," Ford said. "He bounced back after some rough games."
Sophomore starting pitcher Luke Peterson was almost perfect in his start in the game preceding the semi final defeat. Peterson pummeled a team from New York, 10-0 to earn the W.
Also stepping into the limelight on the hill for Fitch was freshman hurler Noah Sochora who spun a shutout in a 6-0 win over Beekmantown, N.Y., on April 9.
"Sochora did a nice job in his start," said Ford sounding pleased.
If the pitching was pleasing to Fitch's manager then the offensive fireworks must have been overwhelming. The Falcons put up nearly 50 runs in their five games in South Carolina thanks to the hard hitting of just about anyone who was written into the lineup.
"We exploded on offense," explained Ford. "We are hitting the ball well 1 through 9."
Ford hopes his club continues to mash the ball now that it is no longer in the warmth of Myrtle Beach. The Falcons (7-6) flew back into All American Red Tier action on Monday and Tuesday against Howland. Those games will be followed by a single game against Hubbard on Thursday then a doubleheader with West Branch on Saturday before the Falcons catch a break with only three games next week. Fitch's coach spoke with great anticipation when discussing that slate of games on Sunday evening.
"This is a big week," Ford said. "Hopefully we can carry over what we did (in Myrtle Beach)."