Greenmen game at the plate
AURORA — The Greenmen can certainly hit.
Through three games, they have left little doubt of that.
After scoring 24 runs in a Saturday doubleheader against Padua Franciscan, Aurora erupted for 19 more in five innings against Garfield in Monday's home opener.
Go figure since the Greenmen, who advanced to 3-0 with Monday's 19-9 win over the G-Men, didn't exactly hit all that well during their scrimmages.
"In the scrimmages, we were swinging through a lot of pitches and striking out a lot," Aurora coach Sam Petrash said. "That past week, we were working on approach and making adjustments at certain points in the count, and when you're coaching high school kids, you never know how much of a buy-in you're going to get with them, but they bought in on these adjustments and you can see the result from it now. We've been pleasantly surprised by it."
The approach was impressive throughout Monday's game as the Greenmen worked deep counts for much of the afternoon, then exploded for three straight singles on first or second pitches as part of a nine-run bottom of the second.
"We can always make in-game adjustments," Petrash said. "You just kind of watch how the pitcher is working and our sense was they didn't want to come over the plate too early in the count, so we were trying to be patient, and then when they tried to make adjustments off of that, then you make adjustments to their adjustment, so there's always chess matches within the game."
Equally impressive was the depth of the Aurora lineup. Even with a couple of regulars missing from Monday's non-conference clash, the Greenmen showed plenty of depth, with eight different players recording hits. Seven (Madeline Dalessandro, Mackenzie Krafcik, McKennah Metzger, Ava Ryncarz, Maggie McVicker, Kennedy Nietert and Kennedy Austin) had multiple hits.
Perhaps the most impressive show of depth came with Aurora leading just 12-8 in the bottom of the third. Up came sophomore Maggie McVicker, the Greenmen's seven hitter Monday, with the bases loaded and one out. With a 2-2 count, she popped a couple of fouls back toward the screen, then took another 2-2 pitch just inside to work the count full. Then, McVicker smoked the 3-2 pitch past shortstop to knock in a pair of runs.
"Maggie's only a sophomore so we expect a lot from her, but one of the things that we try to impress upon our hitters is extend at-bats if you can, waste pitches if you can," Petrash said. "That becomes frustrating for a pitcher because they're making their pitches and they're thinking to themselves, 'What do I have to do to get this girl out,' and if she loses focus, she might groove one and you might be able to jump on it, so that's exactly what Maggie did. She just kept working the count, working the pitches, wasting, wasting and all of a sudden she gets her pitch and she drives it. That's a textbook at-bat right there and that's what we try to teach."
Up came the eight hitter, Nietert, who bashed a ball off the left-field fence as another run came home. Remarkably, Aurora's six, seven, eight and nine hitters — Ava Ryncarz, McVicker, Nietert and Kennedy Austin — all reached base multiple times.
Equally impressive, the Greenmen, down 4-1, never blinked. Especially not Krafcik, who shook off a one-run first and three-run second to pitch the entire five innings, including a scoreless fifth, the first zero put up by either team.
"Mackenzie Krafcik is probably one of the most composed players I've seen on the mound," Petrash said. "So when you have a leader like that out there who doesn't get riled up or get frustrated, the team will play loose behind her."
Of course, Petrash isn't content with surrendering 7.7 runs per game through the team's first three contests.
"Believe it or not, I'm a defensive person," Petrash said. "I believe in building the defense first and keeping the other team from scoring and then this way you're always in ballgames, so to see us give up 10 out in Sandusky and see us give up nine [Monday], I was very frustrated by that. So to me that just kind of showed our youth and I know there's a ton of upside. There's going to be a ton of upside yet because we're still young. It's not as if I have a bunch of seniors making a bunch of mistakes."