NEW MARKET – All season long New Market Rebels head coach Zac Cole has been looking for consistency for his team and with the playoffs just around the corner that hasn’t changed.
The fourth-place Rebels are 16-16 on the season, four games behind first-place Front Royal and Purcellville in the Valley Baseball League’s North Division.
“We’ve been kind of up and down all summer, but I feel like we have the pieces to be successful,” Cole said. “And we’ve seen that in individual games, but then as a whole we’ve kind of been a little up and down. But these last two week we’re kind of right in the thick of the playoff race and I feel like from here on out we’re just trying to focus on getting ourselves in the playoffs and then see what happens from there.”
Cole said one of the biggest things he wants to see his team do over the last two weeks of the regular season is playing solid defense.
The Rebels have made a league-high 59 errors this season, but Cole said they’ve made some strides in that area recently.
“We’ve started to play a little bit better defense,” Cole said. “We had a little stretch there where we were kicking the ball around a little bit, which that makes it tough to win baseball games. And we were giving away too many free bases and part of that was guys trying to do too much. You know throwing to the wrong bases on cuts and trying to make plays when there wasn’t a play. So we kind of got that a little bit under control in the last three or four games of just letting ourselves relax and focus on playing fundamentally sound baseball. I feel like if we do that we’ve got a really good team.”
OFFENSIVE DEPTH: The Rebels have been led all season by Andrew Eyster (University of South Carolina) at the plate, but they have a lot of other players who are contributing offensively.
New Market has seven players hitting .300 or better. Chase Sudduth (North Georgia College and State University) is batting .344 (33-for-96) and Marc Coffers (Florida Gulf Coast University) is hitting .333 (11-for-33). As a team, the Rebels are hitting .283, which is second in the league.
“I think probably the key offensively for us is the beginning part of the summer we had a few guys that were struggling,” Cole said. “And then as we’ve gotten here deeper into the summer we’ve extended the depth of our lineup where one through nine we’re running quality hitters out there and guys that are giving us good at-bats and giving us a chance to win every night.”
Eyster leads the league with a .479 batting average (36-for-82) and Cole said he’s been a big, big factor to the success of the offense.
“He’s been our 2-hole hitter pretty much the whole summer,” Cole said. “So with him right at the top of the order, he’s a guy that you kind of got to game plan for, and pitch around and make sure he doesn’t come up to beat you and he’s been pretty good. So the depth and having that one guy that’s been really, really good and then a bunch of guys that have been pretty dadgum good – it’s a good combination.”
LOOKING FOR STARTING PITCHING: Like most teams, New Market has had players leave the team due to injuries or other things. The Rebels’ starting pitching staff has been hit the hardest by players leaving.
Cole said they have had four starting pitchers leave the team, which has forced them to scramble to fill the holes.
“We’ve had to shuffle some guys around into the rotation that were throwing quality bullpen innings for us early in the summer, and now they’re kind of thrust into a different role,” Cole said. “That’s been a challenge. I think everybody goes through that in summer baseball – guys get shut down. And summer ball is not the place to go through an injury. So you know when guys get banged up a little bit it’s better just to send ’em home and err on that side than to try and get them to play through it.”
Cole said they have been lucky enough to find some new pitchers and they’ve still got a few new guys coming in very soon.
He said one strong point with the pitching staff has been the bullpen.
“Our bullpen’s been pretty good for most of the summer,” he said. “We’ve got a handful of guys in our bullpen that we feel pretty confident that if we can get them a lead in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth innings that we can win baseball games. So it’s just a matter of us getting quality starts right now.”