It's been an up and down legion baseball season for East Ridge as the Raptors fell 6-1 to Stillwater on Wednesday night.
There have been many changes to the lineup with players working and traveling on other baseball teams as well. The lineup hasn't looked the same on a consistent basis, but co-head coach Connor Malcolm is happy with where the Raptors are at in the season.
"These junior varsity players have stepped up and shown what they're capable of which has been fun to see," Malcolm said. "We have a lot of talent and depth on this team and I'm excited for the next couple of weeks before the playoffs start."
Ben North started the game for the Raptors on Wednesday night and started off a little shaky with hitting a couple of the Stillwater batters in the first inning. East Ridge was able to help North with some strong defense and didn't allow a run.
"When I got out of the first inning with the help from my defense, I felt more confident," North said. "I haven't pitched much during the varsity season because of our depth with pitchers, so it's been fun getting back on the mound this summer."
North had a strong outing, but his catcher Nate Witte was having a strong game from behind the plate. Witte threw out a handful of runners that tried to steal second base.
He kept throwing fastballs down to second base and recording the out, which helped East Ridge in a couple of key innings to keep the game close. Stillwater scored most of its runs in the last two or three innings, which Malcolm said they need to focus on closing out games.
"I just wanted to help my team out as much as possible, so I kept trying to get the runners out at second," Witte said. "I think we've played some really good games and hopefully we can carry that momentum into the end of the regular season and into the playoffs."
Since East Ridge reached the state tournament for baseball this spring season and won the state tournament, the legion schedule had to be shifted. There were a handful of games cancelled and postponed due to the state run.
Once the varsity season was over, some of the players had to go to showcases and play on other teams, so Malcolm looked to the junior varsity players to step up early.
That's been the case with some big wins to start the season, but there were some losses that the players learned from and utilize in the following game. Those little corrections by the players make Malcolm happy because they're not only building for the legion season, but preparing for the varsity season next spring.
"With so many seniors graduating this past year, the varsity team is going to look very different," North said. "It's fun to be on this legion team and see how all these players are growing and getting ready for next season."
Malcolm isn't focused on the spring season yet. Instead, his focus is on getting this East Ridge team on a hot streak heading into the sub-state playoffs during the week of July 22.
He knows this team is capable of making a deep run in hopes of playing the first weekend of August in the state tournament.
He's looking forward to getting some players back and having the entire team there for the last week of the regular season. That will bring the depth he needs for the week of playoffs.
"We just need to focus on getting better each game and that will help us when the playoffs come," Malcolm said. "This has been a fun team to coach and I can't wait to see what the next couple of weeks look like for this team."