by Robert Baldwin
In the last baseball games before the European championships being played this week, freshman C.J. Delp threw four innings of one hit shut out ball as Ramstein took game one 12-2 in the Saturday double header against crosstown rival Kaiserslautern. Nathan Kranz went 3-for-4, Chris Guzaldo and Makani Stenger also had multiple hits in Ramstein’s 12- hit barrage.
The Royals won the second game 13-4 by overcoming a tense third inning in which Kaiserslautern scored four runs and was knocking on the door for more before the Royals wiggled out of the jam.
In the inning, Raiders Justice Harper, Sam Newberry and Javyn Hill recorded base hits to fire the rally. Ramstein lefty Jeremy Leclair had not pitched many innings all year, but with the European Championships dead ahead, in which the Royals could play five games in three days, Coach Ozvaldo Garcia Carillo wanted to give several of his pitchers more innings in preparation.
Coaches are first and foremost teachers. They do not only impart the fundamentals of their sport. They try to put their players in situations that will test them to help develop courage and confidence in difficult instances, to see how they perform when the conditions are not perfect or even in their favor. Coaches understand that the players will not know what they are capable of accomplishing unless they are put in a situation where their performance either helps them be successful or fail. They teach them to control what they can and deal with what they cannot.
Garcia Carillo made a trip to the mound to talk to his young lefty, who was frustrated with the plate umpire’s strike zone, then decided to leave him in the game and let him ride it out.
“He’s got to work it out and be more experienced,” said a relieved Carillo after the game. “He has not had much experience throughout the regular season and we wanted to test him in our last game looking towards Euros. He needs to face batters and we just let him get that experience. Mentally he got a little bit tougher. He had to learn how to deal with his emotions and adversity. We need to be more resilient but we have to learn it is part of the game. Adversity is going to be in front of us and we have to battle it through.”
Leclair got the next hitter to hit it on the ground to Guzaldo at shortstop, who got the force at second, but the hitter beat the throw to first. Leclair bounced the next two pitches, but veteran catcher Nathan Kranz, whom Carillo calls “my guardian angel back there,” smothered them with his chest protector. Finally, on a 3-2 count, Leclair, who had been working down in the zone, fired a high fastball out of the strike zone, and got the hitter to swing for the third out.
Ramstein put it out of reach with seven runs in their third inning. Guzaldo tripled, followed by a sacrifice fly by Miles Murphy, a groundout by Ethan Smith, an error on a ball put in play by Delp, and a double by Stenger.
The versatile Guzaldo has been a key cog in the Ramstein machine. He is a catalyst and is often in the middle of the Royals attack. The switch hitting sophomore said one of the secrets to their success is the closeness of the players.
“We are getting better as the year goes on,” he said between games. “We bond a lot off the field so we all get to know each other better. We get to play games against pretty good competition for the most part. We would like to play more games though.”
For the Raiders, it has been a trying year. The results have not been what they want on the field and there have been players lost to injuries and personal issues. They are down to their third and fourth catchers, so their depth is limited. But Bates knows how fickle baseball can be. The Raiders lost, but he saw some good things and he has coached long enough to know that in baseball there is always a tomorrow.
“This season has definitely been interesting,” Bates said. “We’ve lost some key players for various reasons. Still, we maintain a positive attitude and focus on what we do well. We hit the baseball, throughout the lineup, as well as any team in the league.”