Focus on improvement
By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Although it didn't get a win for its efforts, Cannon County's baseball team felt much better about itself after the second week of the season.
The Lions (0-7, 0-2 District 8-AA) were winless in three games last week but, after losing three games by run rule during the opening week, they were much more competitive in the season's second week.
"We can't focus on wins or losses early in the year," Lions coach Justin Fann said. "We are a young team and that's obvious. I only carry four upperclassmen. The games count on your schedule but they don't put you out. The only time a loss puts you out is in the tournament so we just have to focus on getting better every day. By tournament time we will see how far we have come."
Cannon County opened District 8-AA play with a home doubleheader against Upperman. The Bees swept the twinbill, taking game one, 3-0, and winning the nightcap, 6-3. The Lions suffered a non-district setback at Gordonsville, 11-7, Thursday.
Two-time All-District performer Nick Vassar returned to the field after missing opening week with arm issues. His presence improves the team in every aspect - defensively, offensively and on the mound. Vassar had hits in all three games last week and pitched 1-2/3 innings of one-hit baseball in relief against Upperman.
"His return brings a lot to the plate just from a team morale standpoint," Fann said. "He actually threw a lot better than what I expected. Up to that point he had not thrown a ball in over a month. He was bring good speed to the plate."
While the Lions were celebrating Vassar's return from the disabled list, they had to deal with losing the services of all-district catcher Trent Bragg, who was unable to play defensively last week. He was designated hitter in both games against Upperman but was completely shut down against Gordonsville. Bragg (shoulder) is hopeful of returning against DeKalb County this week.
Sophomore Josh Williams stepped in and performed exceptionally well in Bragg's absence.
"Not having Trent hurts because he not only is a great catcher, but he also knows how to call games," Fann said. "To lose him is big for our team, but Josh impressed me. He did a good job blocking and receiving. His bat has come a long way. Josh has carried his weight."
The Lions received solid hitting from Jackson Mason and Tucker Francis throughout the week. Each had three hits in the past two games. Cannon County's defense also has been superlative. The Lions made just two errors in three games last week.
Inconsistent pitching has been the issue.
Francis, a sophomore, has turned in two quality starts but has nothing to show for it. Vassar's return will bolster the staff. Jared Judkins has been consistent and solid in relief. The staff, otherwise, has been inconsistent at best.
"I have been pleased with the hitting and our defense has been good," Fann said. "We just have to get some of our pitchers in a rhythm and getting outs. The hitting has been there but we have to get our pitching more consistent than it has been."
Pitching will have to step up in a hurry as the Lions encounter their toughest week of the season with six games slated during spring break. They open the week with a District 8-AA series against rival DeKalb County before particpating in the always tough Rocket Classic.