03/14/08 — Youth-laden Rosewood still seeking indentity

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Youth-laden Rosewood still seeking indentity

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 14, 2008 2:52 PM

Non-conference losses mean nothing.

While the setbacks might not please fans in attendance, coaches use the games as preparation for conference -- and possibly -- postseason play. And when you're a team mixed with youth and experienced players, those defeats should serve as valuable lessons.

Just ask Rosewood baseball coach Josh Smith.

The third-year skipper watched his team commit five costly errors and struggle at the plate in a 7-0, non-conference loss to Wilson Fike on Thursday afternoon. Golden Demon right-hander Bentley Massey permitted just five hits and fanned 13 Eagle batters in a six-inning stint.

"A lot of the starters we have right now are coming up from JV ball and are learning about the varsity game," said Smith. "We've just got to put the ball in play. We preach to them all the time to let the other team get you out in the field, and not necessarily get yourself out."

Rosewood (1-3 overall) tied a season-high for strikeouts and managed just one hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Smith's team stranded nine runners overall, including five at either second or third base.

Massey escaped first- and second-inning jams, and proceeded to retire eight consecutive batters from the second to fourth innings. The Eagles' Eric Martel and Scott Pate (2-for-3) cranked out back-to-back singles in the fifth, but the next three batters combined for two strikeouts and a groundout.

"We're trying to find our identity," said Smith. "We're young with a (good) core coming back from last year, but we're still trying to find that one matching point where we're all together on the same page."

The Golden Demons, of the Class 3-A NEW 6 Conference, gave Massey a working margin in the second inning. They plated three runs (one earned) on two hits and one error. Tripp Sauls recorded the lone RBI during that stretch.

Rosewood right-hander Taylor Allen (0-2) received superb defensive play to wiggle out of third-inning trouble. Left fielder Scott Pate, third baseman Robert Franks and catcher Eric Martel combined to get one runner at the plate. Pate recorded an inning-ending out at the plate.

Fike (3-2) touched Allen for three runs (one earned) in the fifth and sixth innings. David Gibbons and Mitchell Wheeler doubled during that time, but the Demons also profited from two errors, a wild pitch and hit batter.

"Our pitching was outstanding today," said Smith. "You can't ask for anything more from Taylor. He threw the ball well and to give up six runs, but just two earned, that's a credit to us not being able to field a ground ball.

"(Fike) put the ball in play. We just have to do a better job of making those plays and getting them out."

Wheeler led Fike with two hits.

A playoff qualifier last season, Rosewood managed seven hits in the 2-hour, 4-minute contest. Golden Demon reliever Michael McLawhorn, a right-hander, allowed two seventh-inning hits.

Disappointed with the loss, Smith felt his team gave a good effort.

"I'm proud of the boys," he said. "They understand that it's going to be a (learning) process, but we're getting better each and every game. The good part is we get to come out tomorrow and go again."

Rosewood entertains Farmville Central today. First pitch is 5 p.m. at The Nest.