By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- To combat the long season, Shenandoah skipper Kevin Anderson teaches his team to break the schedule down into four 10-game stretches. This allows his players to focus on the games at-hand, rather than become caught looking down the road at another game.
And after reaching the midway point with a resounding 24-3 win over Mount Aloysius Monday, Anderson knows this season has been quite a successful one.
"It's good," he said. "With the exception of one game we've played some pretty good baseball and we're getting better. I've never been in a situation where we play 20 games and have one day of practice on the field. That's a great credit to our kids."
One area that's always had success for the Hornets (16-4) has been their lethal offense and Monday was no different. Shenandoah used an 11-run first inning to quickly jump all over the Mounties (3-12), as the Hornets sent 14 batters to the plate, registering 10 hits and blasting three home runs. Center fielder Kevin Brashears got the offensive showcase started with a lead-off solo shot, then teammate Jesse Henry blasted a grand slam to put the home team ahead by 10. Greg Van Sickler added a solo blast of his own before the inning ended, giving pitcher Ben Hendrickson more than enough cushion to do his work on the mound.
"He came out and was giving us all thank yous as we were walking in the dugout," Van Sickler said. "Putting up 11 runs definitely helps take the weight off their shoulders."
Hendrickson was effective Monday, using his breaking ball to limit the Mounties to just six hits over six innings of work. Hendrickson notched 11 strikeouts in the win, moving his record to 2-0 on the season.
"Ben, that's the best his breaking ball has been," Anderson said. "His changeup wasn't there so he was predominately trying to spot his fastball and he was throwing his breaking ball in two different locations so that was really impressive."
Mount Aloysius got on the board in the third inning, as shortstop Bryan Nolan scored on a Matt Cornetti single, breaking the shutout by Hendrickson. The lead was never in doubt, however, as Shenandoah scored two more runs in the second inning, then put up three more runs between the fifth and sixth. The Hornets sealed the win with an eight-run eighth inning in which they batted around for the second time in the game. In all, every starter scored at least one run, and both Van Sickler and Henry finished a triple shy of the cycle.
"Well of course winning's always better than losing, so it was definitely fun," Van Sickler said, "but especially since we came off of such an emotional weekend this [past] Saturday and Sunday. It was pretty rough for us to squeak out three wins, so any time you can jump out early like that it's a great thing."
Monday's win marks the fifth game the Hornets have played in seven days. The schedule doesn't get any easier, however, as Shenandoah will host games today, Wednesday and Thursday before using Friday to prepare for a weekend series with Christopher Newport.
Anderson knows the tough schedule has been hard on his team, but that with more performances like the one shown Monday, his team should be primed to make it through the stretch relatively unscathed.
"That's what's fun about baseball is to play it every day," he said. "We're playing a lot of baseball, and they're tired, but [today] was a pretty impressive offensive display."