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Lakers swept by a touchdown and a field goal
April 2, 2012By Chet Novak of LAKE LAND COLLEGE
MATTOON—LAKER BASEBALL FIELD—No, Lake Land College doesn’t have a football team, but you’d never know it by the scores in the recent sweep of the Lakers in a double header versus Olney Central College on Sunday at Laker Baseball Field.
It usually bodes well for LLC when the score runs high, given the type of offense they have espoused. Most teams that get in a slugfest with the Lakers usually come out at least a football field goal’s worth of runs behind. But the Blue Knights reversed the trend, winning 14-7 and 15-12, with OCC sending more runners across the dish than McDonald’s serving $1 menu items at lunchtime.
Lake Land came out on the short end this time, but it wasn’t as if either team had red-letter days on the mound, either.
With several of the Lakers pitching staff down with injury, a team could get caught up with a ready-made excuse for losing, although the Lakers haven’t displayed that type of attitude. On one hand, having a significant number of your staff on the DL is not unlike what plenty of major league team’s have to deal with. On the other hand, major league teams have a slew of minor leaguers to call up as needed.
The word from Mattoon is there were far too many free passes issued in both games. That’s asking for trouble, or in this case, begging for it. May be time to pitch to contact and give the defense a chance at keeping the team in the game. Otherwise, the team that lives by the “longball sword” is going to need to learn how to hit 5- and 6-run homers.
About all any team can do in these circumstances is look for leadership out of their sophomores, who can spark a team into a turnaround by really “getting after it” from the first pitch, and redefine the word “hustle” with every new inning. Sometimes baseball is as much in the head as it is the hands.
And if you’re wondering how these scores are reminiscent of youth league finals, it isn’t just a Lake Land thing—not by a long shot. There are a few factors that cause relentless scoring in junior college baseball, probably the most common factor being that batters at this level simply outmatch pitchers by and large.
Out of high school, there is always the top 10-20 percent of talent, including a high percentage of great hitters and, because there are basically fewer of them per team, a much smaller percentage of great pitchers. The very best of those hurlers get chosen by four-year universities, so you better believe most of the top pitchers are beyond the reach of any junior college coach’s recruiting mission.
But when it comes to great high school hitting grads, there are several “leftovers,” if you will, or at least a pretty good portion of the cream of the crop. This creates an imbalance at the junior college level that makes for a lot of games that look more like batting practice than a real game. And there’s really no blame concerning the odd ratio.
Sounds harsh regarding the pitchers, but it actually gives the pitchers who’ve been passed over by major colleges a real chance to develop and prove themselves.
The ones who are in danger of misusing their opportunity are often the “hitters,” or, position players. For these JUCO players, it’s easy to fall into a false sense of security because often they’re able to drive the ball all over the park, and many of them probably forget (or don’t have an idea) that when facing a college upper classman (if indeed they make it to the next level), they’re going to face a vastly more experienced hurler with movement on a well-placed fastball and with a second and possibly third pitch thrown with much better command.
At the higher college level, the advantage usually swings back in favor of the pitcher.
So for anyone with an interest in junior college baseball, understand these inequities before spewing a bunch of coulda-woulda-shoulda’s. A team with a healthy pitching staff, for instance, may have tremendous advantage, given the general makeup of a junior college roster.
As with all sports, the fun is in seeing whether your favorite team can figure out a way to overcome the current dilemma, and there is always a current dilemma.
Your next chance to experience Lake Land baseball is Thursday, April 5, when the Lakers play a double header against the Blue Devils of Kaskaskia College. Kick off … uh, that is, first pitch, is slated for 1:30 p.m. CST.
Admission to Laker Baseball Field is free.
Coverage: Game #1 only on WLKL 89.9 FM.