By Ben Rossi
In a league like the Mile High Collegiate Baseball League, it is imperative that coaches try to win. But it is also important to balance being competitive with giving each of their players playing time and the chance develop. The Denver Generals managed to do both in Thursday’s 8-2 victory over the Spradley Collegians.
This win marked both a chance for the Generals to start to turn their season around while avenging earlier losses on the year to that same opponent. The win came thanks to their hitting depth and exceptional pitching performances, something they have needed all season long.
The first run came on an RBI ground ball to first from what has been a hot hitting bat in Charlie Hilgers. Just Hilgers ability to put it in play even though the hit was a weak ground ball, meant an early lead for the Generals.
“I’ve just been trying to put the ball in play, trying to move guys over, do my part and that’s kind of how I’ve been able to help the team win,” said Hilgers on his approach to the plate.
The Generals took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning when the coach made an unexpected move of pinch hitting nearly every bat in the order. The move paid off on every level. Not only did they score four runs in the inning to put the game out of reach at 7-1, but they gave more players playing time, following through with the league’s purpose of player development.
The big hits came as back-to-back-to-back pinch hit RBI’s. An RBI triple down the right field line by Parker Dorrance was followed by an RBI double by I-Ly Hsue. This was immediately followed by a first pitch home run to centerfield by Angelo Domenico to make the score 7-1. Pinch hitter William Russum added a run on an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 8-2.
In a normal competitive environment, bringing out pinch hitters late when the team is only ahead by two runs would be seen as a bold strategy. But in this case it was not a strategy.
“Most of this is pre-arranged where we have a set number of innings we let guys play in our nine inning games. So part of it was just being fortuitous of having those guys coming up at that point in the game,” said Generals coach Steve Jones. “They put good swings on that pitcher. I think that if nothing else that was just the changing it up gave our hitters sort of just a different fresh look at it.”
While the four Generals pitchers on the night gave up seven walks, they managed to work their ways out of jams by throwing strikes when needed. This will continue to be a key moving forward in order to produce great pitching to go along with stellar offense.
“The guys have made a lot of adjustments. It’s been very exciting to see that kids that really struggled early have kind of found their groove,” Jones added. “Part of it was I call it the COVID rust, a lot of guys were just trying to get back into their groove. And now they’ve gotten some games under their belt. I think they’re finding their rhythm, they’re finding the right tempo.”
The Generals certainly have a working tempo playing as they are currently riding a two-game winning streak after losing their first six games of the season.