The bats are coming around, the pitching is good – now the White Rock Tritons just need their play in the field to improve in order for them to dig themselves out from the bottom of the BC Premier Baseball League standings.
The Tritons got their second win of the season last weekend, but the victory was the lone bright spot in a four-game slate on Vancouver Island. The 1-3 road trip, combined with a loss Tuesday night to the North Delta Blue Jays, has seen the Tritons slip to 2-13 on the season.
But despite the team’s struggles, head coach Russ Smithson says his squad “doesn’t feel like a team with a record like the one we have.”
“We played four pretty good ballgames last weekend, to be honest,” he said. “But it’s one hit, one error, and that’s the difference.”
On Saturday in Parksville, White Rock knocked off the host Royals 10-9 in the first game of a doubleheader, before losing the second game, 7-5. A day later in Nanaimo, the Tritons lost 4-1 and 8-5 to the home side.
The win was highlighted by a five-run fifth inning – proof of Smithson’s claim that his team was finally getting some timely hitting. Third baseman Jason Hill led the way, going 3-for-5 with a triple, two runs scored and two runs-batted-in. Dawson Veeneman also had a good day at the dish, going 3-for-3 with two walks, and RBI and a stolen base. Tom Melenchuk – who served as the team’s designated hitter, as he works his way back from an injury – also had two hits in the win.
Relief pitcher Liam Mitchell earned the win, pitching one inning in relief of starter Patrick van den Brink and fellow reliever Anthony Aiello, who was the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the Tritons.
But where the team struggled most was in the field, Smithson said. The team made seven errors in the victory, and consistently have been charged with between three and five each game of the season thus far.
“Errors are just killing us right now,” the coach said.
“It’s frustrating, and it affects our pitching, too. We want to have our pitchers go deep into ballgames, but if they’re having to get an extra out every inning because of errors, that’s an extra 10 or 15 pitches they have to throw every inning, so they’re done after five (innings) rather than seven.”
Smithson chalked up the fielding miscues to inexperience – aside from Hill, the entire infield is new this season – as well as injuries, especially to Melenchuk, the team’s regular first baseman who has yet to play in the field this year.
“There’s just adjustments that we have to make. A lot of our guys have come up (from the junior team) and it’s just a little bit quicker up here,” Smithson said.
The only solution, he added, is to continue practising and working at it.
“We’ll just keep smoking ground balls at ‘em in practice,” he said.
With 30 games left on the schedule, Smithson said now is the time for his team to start winning series against their opponents each weekend.
“Our goal right now is to win a series, take three out of four on a weekend, and go from there. We have to start winning some games,” he said.
This weekend, the Tritons are at home for back-to-back doubleheaders. On Saturday, they host the Victoria Eagles – games are 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at South Surrey Athletic Park – and Sunday, the Nanaimo Pirates are in town for two games, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.