The New Market Shockers still have a shot at a regular-season title, but their biggest concern is just peaking at the right time for the upcoming playoffs in the Rockingham County Baseball League.
New Market head coach Nolan Potts said that the start of the playoffs is up in the air due to rain-outs last week throughout the eight-team league. Potts said he just wants his team to keep playing well entering the postseason.
"I'm hoping we're starting to hit our stride here late," Potts said. "Hopefully the next few nights, we play Montezuma (Wednesday) and we play Stuarts Draft (today), we just continue to put good swings on the baseball, get some good pitching, work on our defense some and carry that over into the postseason. I think if we get all three phases of the game put together we're pretty tough to beat."
New Market (13-6) trails first-place Broadway (15-5) by 1 1/2 games in the standings. The Shockers have two games left in the regular season and Broadway has to finish a game that was suspended last week against Bridgewater tonight. If New Market wins its last two games and Broadway loses its game with Bridgewater there will be a one-game playoff to decide the regular-season champion and top seed for the playoffs. The Shockers have already clinched at least second place in the league and the second seed in the playoffs.
One of the reasons for the Shockers' success this season has been a balanced attack on offense. New Market has nine players hitting .300 or better this season. As a team, New Market is hitting .305.
"They go up there, they've got a plan," Potts said. "When they go up there, they're just putting good swings on the ball. They're not chasing balls out of the zone. Those guys know how to hit. It's just been fun to watch them. It doesn't really matter who another team's throwing because we go up the first time through the order we might not do well but the second time through they make adjustments and put better swings on the ball."
Shenandoah University graduate Nick Goode leads the way for the Shockers. He is batting .449 (22-for-49) with six RBIs and 15 runs scored. Sherando graduate Pearce Bucher (Shenandoah University) leads the team with 13 RBIs. Grant Thompson (Shenandoah University) has three homers to lead New Market.
Potts said that in the Shockers' 6-4 victory over Clover Hill on Tuesday, Matt Moon (Shenandoah University) had two big hits and three RBIs. Moon is the team's No. 9 hitter in the lineup.
"We're literally getting production one-through-nine in the lineup," Potts said. "As a coach, that's a good feeling for me because it's not like 'well once we get through the top of the order we're in trouble.' It's literally everybody in the lineup is producing one-through-nine and that's good at this time of the year."
Sherando and Shenandoah University graduate Darrell Thompson has led the pitching staff this season. Thompson has started five games and has a 2-1 record with a 3.64 ERA. He has thrown 37 innings and has 55 strikeouts. Potts said that in Thompson's last two starts he has struck out a combined 28 batters.
Another key pitcher has been reliever Calvin Pastel (Shenandoah University). He has two saves and pitched four innings of relief in Tuesday's win over Clover Hill.
The Shockers have plenty of depth in the bullpen, but Potts said his biggest worry is having enough starting pitching in the postseason.
"The question I have is if we get into those longer playoff series, who is going to step up in a starter's role?" Potts said. "We obviously know Darrell's (Thompson) going to do what he does. But after that, I know we've got a bunch of guys that can throw out of the bullpen. But some of those guys may have to get thrown into a starter's role just because you'll have so many games in such a short amount of time. Michael Prosperi's been good as a starter. Joel Smith's been a good as a starter. Kirk Messick's the oldest guy on the team. He's my assistant coach but he's thrown well in the games he's been in. We've got a lot of options and that's a nice thing for me."
If Broadway wins its final game, the Shockers will be the No. 2 seed and play No. 7 seed Elkton in the first round of the playoffs, which is a best-of-three series. It would be a rematch of last year. Elkton upset New Market last year in two games after the Shockers finished second in the regular season.
New Market returns many players from last year's team. Potts said he feels like his team has learned from last season.
"I think they know there has to be a sense of urgency this time around," he said. "They know they don't want it to be over already – I know that. They've had such a good summer and they know they've had a good summer. They don't want to lose to a lower-seeded team."
Potts said that the Shockers beat Elkton in all three meetings this season but they were all close games.
If the Shockers advance to the semifinals, they will have home-field advantage for the best-of-five series. He said the championship series is a best-of-seven series.
Potts said having a home-field advantage is huge for his squad because Rebel Park is bigger than most of the home stadiums in the RCBL. Potts said some of the home runs hit in other parks would just be a regular fly ball in New Market.
"I want to play every game in New Market if we could just because of the dimensions of the field," Potts said. "We've actually got fans coming out this year. We've had good attendance at our home games. I think the community's starting to support us more than in year's past since we're the only team in town right now. So playing at home is enormous for us."