Baseball team still working on the basics
Some things are out of a baseball coach's hands including a wet March and two injured pitchers.
But instead of blaming his team's 0-3 start on tricks of fate, first-year coach John Lee is focusing on what he can control, such as getting his Tonganoxie High School team better at playing technically clean baseball.
"We need to work on building the fundamentals repetitions," said Lee, who also is athletics director. "We need to continue to do the right things over and over and over until we get used to them and form good habits."
Through Tonganoxie's first three games, the team has committed 16 errors, but the team is playing better. In its April 2 opener at Jeff West, the team committed eight.
In its 0-10 loss in the first game of the team's Thursday doubleheader vs. Basehor-Linwood, Tonganoxie trimmed that number to six. It committed only two in the second game, a 0-3 loss.
"It's OK to be young and make mistakes," Lee said. "But we just can't take two games to get in the rhythm."
The team has had a tough early season.
It's grappled with the normal growing pains that come with a new coach and a young team. And rainouts have cut into the team's practice and play time.
But this Tonganoxie Chieftain ball club also has been hit right where it hurts: In the throwing arm.
"We lost both our number one pitchers to virtually the same injury," Lee said.
Right-hander Ryan Lowe, who pitched the first several innings of Tonganoxie's Jeff West opener, broke a small bone in his pitching hand Wednesday night after practice while working on his batting.
Mark Walters, who Lee also had figured to throw some pitches this season, injured the same bone on his pitching hand five weeks ago.
While there's a chance Lowe won't see anymore time on the mound, Lee said he expects Walters' hand to be healed in a couple of weeks.
After that, he should be able to start throwing, but Lee said it would take a few more weeks to work him into the rotation.
Lee said he was pleased with the performance of the pitchers he did have.
"We've had some kids who've done a good job for us on the mound."
Matt Alexander has pitched in two games. In seven innings he has shown his consistency, throwing 64 strikes in his 114 pitches.
Against Basehor-Linwood, Kelly Woelk hit the strike zone 63 times in 100 pitches.
Though he's only thrown 25 balls over two innings, David Saultz is keeping pace with Alexander and Woelk, throwing 16 of those pitches for strikes.
But Lee maintains that the team's focus must be on fundamentals.
"We've got to hit the ball better," the coach said. "We've got to be able to string hits together. They've got to be able to catch and throw the ball."
And confidence will play a factor this season.
"We just have a lot to learn," Lee said. "The kids have got to believe in themselves."