The story of Sunday was Fletcher. Coming into the game 2-10 on the weekend, the sophomore exploded for five hits including a two-run home run and a double to lead the way. Not to be outdone Hargett added three hits and three RBI while McElroy chipped in with two hits as well. A freshman from Boone High in Orlando, McElroy says getting a win was important to everyone on the team.
"It felt really good," McElroy says. "There was a lot of anticipation to this fall world series. It's always good to come out with a win."
A sophomore, Fletcher agrees with McElroy. Trailing 3-2 in the top of the fourth, Fletcher delivered one of the big blows in the game to essentially put the game away early. At the plate with runners on second and third, Fletcher watched as both runs scored on wild pitches to give the orange team the lead. He then singled and later scored as McElroy reached on an error. Later in the same inning Fletcher came back to the plate with the orange team up 9-3 and unloaded on a long home run to left field. He says for him it wasn't about his big day but about his team getting the series win.
"It's a good feeling," Fletcher says. "There was a lot of competition going on with these guys. To get a victory and win it all was a lot of fun. I struggled the first game but the last two games I stayed back and relaxed. I hit the ball a lot better."
The orange team celebrates the victory.
In game one the orange team won 5-2 behind the starting pitching of redshirt freshman Jon Luke Jacobs. On Saturday the blue team got some revenge as sophomore Grant Dayton led them to 9-3 victory with five shutout innings. Senior Paul Burnside threw well also, allowing two runs in five innings. On Sunday Dexter Price earned the win with Ty Kelley pitching well in relief. Sophomore Hunter Morris came on to pitch the ninth as the Tigers are looking at both he and Joseph Sanders as possible relievers this season. Coach John Pawlowski says the biggest thing for him over the three days was seeing some quality pitching from his team.
"Yesterday I was encouraged by the starting pitching," Pawlowski says. "Grant Dayton and Burnside (Paul Burnside) both did well. If we can get Burnside healthy, I think he's just starting to figure out where he is in this whole process. He's going to be a key. We did learn a lot. I was pleased with a lot of the performances of most of the guys."
In addition to their exploits at the plate, the trio of McElroy, Hargett and Fletcher were solid defensively in the three games. That's something that Pawlowski says is huge for this team as they look to solidify the bullpen and position players heading into the spring.
"I thought defensively the orange team did a good job," Pawlowski says. "I thought Casey McElroy did a really good job defensively at shortstop. I thought Justin Hargett, both of those guys played solid defense. I told our pitchers that we got some ground balls and we've got to be able to make those plays. Casey did a good job and Justin Hargett did. Fletcher had a big game today and threw a guy out at third base. He played good defense and made some good adjustments at the plate."
Sophomore Trent Mummey had the big blow for the blue team with a two-run home run to center field in the fourth inning.
With just two practice days left the Tigers will close up shop this week to get ready for the 2009 season. Pawlowski says heading into his first year at the helm he now has a much better feel for his team after the three game series.
"You learn a lot when you divide the teams and put different uniforms on them and separate them in different dugouts," Pawlowski says. "I thought we learned a lot about the character of the players. That's the biggest thing because it's hard to see that in practice. We had some fans here. It was a great turnout. I feel good about what we learned and what we've accomplished so far in the fall. We've got two days left on Tuesday and Wednesday and that will wrap it up for fall practice."