Over the Plate With The Mate: #8

March 23, 2010

TEMPE, Ariz. - During the 2010 baseball season, lefthander Josh Spence will be writing about his life as a student-athlete who prepares for his final season of college baseball as well as graduating from Arizona State. Spence will check in periodically to write about school, baseball, life and other things.

Just laying in bed, drained after a long spring break and thought it would be a good time to write another segment of Over the Plate. I probably should be getting ready for class.

Spring break started with a three game series at home against Auburn. Game one was a thrilling come from behind win where we were down 7-2, but with some timely hits and clutch pitching we were able to pull it off. Seth Blair started and was strong through five which kept us in the game; his line however didn't match the performance he gave and that's thing you need to realize when breaking down an outing. We didn't seize every opportunity in the field behind him, but you can only control what you can control and Seth did a great job. With a five run deficit and all the momentum on Auburn's side, some key returners stepped up and had some quality at bats when we needed them the most. The bases load walk by Raoul Torrez put us on top just 20 minutes after we gave up the lead. The big thing in being a successful ball club is not letting the situation dictate how you're going to play. Our mentality (like every inning) is just one batter at a time and we were very fortunate to be able to capitalize on those timely hits. Our bullpen of Lambson, Barrett and Swagerty have started to become a trend in shortening games and shutting down the opposing offense late in the game. If we can finish as strong as we've started ,then I think we'll be in good shape.

With a great win Friday night it was back on it for game 2 of the series Saturday with Merrill Kelly on the bump for us. Once again we were hit with adversity early, but were able to overcome not one lead change, but two throughout the tight game and were able to break it open late. The big thing you can draw from this game is that we never played the scoreboard, which is what our coaches preach to us. Even with a five run lead, this game has a funny way of humbling you and it ain't over till it's over. Even with the five run lead, we still added one through quality at bats and unselfish hitting.

Sunday's game started with a bang and before we knew it they had scored two, but once again we answered back in the form of a Riccio Torrez two run shot which tied the game. We ended up breaking away early in the 6th with some more runs, which was clutch on a Sunday game because it's late in the series, usually pitching is dwindling, it's always hot at home in the middle of the day, it's a real advantage to get a nice jump early which is what we were able to do.

This improved our record to 15-0, perfection thus far? Not even close. We still have a lot to improve on because next time we're five runs down, we won't be so lucky. Auburn was a hard hitting ball club from the SEC so it was interesting to see how the game was played from that perspective. It's funny how different areas in the country play different types of baseball. No one way is better than the other and the differences are very subtle, but Auburn swung hard and were by far the best team we've played so far, but just around the corner was our trip to Cal St Fullerton which would end up being a big test on the road for us.

Our Sunday game finished around 4:30 and it wasn't even 15hours after that and we were on a bus headed to Southern California to play Cal St. Fullerton. It's about a seven hour bus ride that is traditionally done when playing in the southern California region. Along with the bus ride are a few traditions done by the 'New Comers'. This includes such things as talking about yourself, your path to ASU and singing a song of your choice. I wish I could talk more about it but we've all been sworn to secrecy, needless to say, it's a quick seven hours. We arrived around 4, unpacked and headed to the field where we would grasp a feel the day before and get some much needed work after the long bus ride. The weather was perfect at night and Fullerton's field was fantastic. It was interesting how the ball would fly during the day but once the sun went down it would go nowhere. Little things like that help us to know and find out when we're playing at an unfamiliar ball park.Brady Rodgers started the Tuesday game and was hit with his first taste of adversity at the college level. It was good to see how we reacted after he competed in the toughest situation we've faced all year; playing Fullerton at Goodwin field. After the lead going back and forth and each team rallying from behind, Mitch Lambson came in a did what he seems to always do and that was to put us in the best chance of winning the ball game. Needless to say Barrett and Swagerty once again came in and shut the door. A standout during the game was young Andrew Aplin. When you get an opportunity, you need to seize it and that's what he's done every time he crosses that line to play. A lot of things change throughout the year and it's still early days but that fourth outfielder is important and to have someone like Andrew come in when he gets his number called and perform like that was very impressive to watch. The turning point of the game I feel was Deven Marrero's relay to third with a throw on the money with 2 outs to get the momentum back in our dugout and as you saw, we then took the lead and then held it. If Deven doesn't get that guy, who knows where the inning would have lead us?

On a definite high from the first game, Jimmy Paterson turns in his best performance yet! 6.1 innings only giving up 5 hits really set the tone of what we need to do as pitchers on the ball club. Jimmy hasn't thrown as well we all know he can, it was good to see him back in his regular consistent form and what better timing then game two at Fullerton. Drew Maggi helped himself to four hits on the day as we cruised to an 8-6 sweep of the Titans (if you didn't notice I was being sarcastic; by cruising I mean a 'gutsy performance' because there is no cruise controls with a line up like Fullerton's). The game finished at around 9:30ish, showered by 10:00ish and we were back on the road to Arizona. A little before 5 am we got back to ASU and I can honestly say I didn't sleep the whole way home, my only day of Spring break was Thursday and I thought I was going to do some homework, catch up on studying, and maybe even write about the week so far. Instead it was straight to bed, woke up at about 5 pm for something to eat and then back to bed only to wake up at 7 the next morning. How the days go by.

It was Seth's turn in the rotation against Houston as he turned in his best performance of the year thus far. Going 7 innings and really giving the pitching staff a platform to work with for the rest of the weekend. It was good to see both Alex Blackford and Josh Moody come in from the pen to toss scoreless innings after a few days without work in a game; it just shows you how deep the pen is and how competitive the pitchers have been this year. The highlight of the night besides the back to back homeruns from Kole Calhoun and Riccio Torrez was meeting Adam Richman from Man Vs Food. Adam was one of the funniest guys I've ever met, a really genuine person for someone of his stature. He talked in the dugout with us before the game and filled every question and even posed for photos as long as he could, just a real quality person and fun guy to be around. He was doing a sliders Challenge out at Chompies, it would be wrong of me to tell you how he went, I'd hate to ruin the show. Ha-ha!

Josh and Adam Richman, host of Man vs. Food

Saturday was the day when Merrill Kelly was able to show his true colors and pitch like his very capable of doing each week. I'm not a strong believer in confidence because I feel it is what you make it but Merrill definitely gave the hitters a chance to relax on a Saturday game which is tough to do and just worry about controlling their at bats and it was evident.

Sunday really shaped up to be a climatic end to a 10 day/8 game spring break. Jake Borup gave us a great start to the game going 5 and with Newman and MacPhee getting two knocks each and having a 6-2 buffer heading into the ninth, it all seemed to be over, but that's the thing, you can't play to the score board and I can't help but feel we did. We scored one run over the second half of the game and really should have taken advantage offensively but it's a good mistake if we can learn from it and seeing that the score ended up 6-5; I can honestly say it was a good wakeup call before Pac-10 play starts this week. We played to the score board, and what's great is we have four days the work on it till our next game.

Monday is our allocated day off for NCAA regulatory purposes and it was spent catching up on homework and studying for my mid-terms this week. I did happen to however help coach a baseball camp held by ASU, it was the last one for the year which is a bit of a bummer but lots of fun was had. We worked on all the drills to do with baseball from diving plays to robbing homeruns (the real important stuff) and finished the night of with a simulated game. It was great to see some familiar faces; like Ben, Theo and Tyler.

And that basically sums up my spring break.Till next time,Josh Spence #45overtheplate@gmail.com

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