I called the game of baseball a “fickle mistress” on Saturday during our broadcast on KPAY after the Chico State Wildcats were making another one of several physical and mental miscues on Saturday afternoon against rival Sonoma State. And, as the Chico Enterprise-Record’s Travis Souders so eloquently added, “if the game of baseball is a fickle mistress for Chico State right now, then the Wildcats have been banished to the couch.”
Chico State’s aire of invincibility took a major hit over the weekend as they were outscored 16-5, and were out-hit 40-24 in a four game sweep at the hands of the Seawolves. What has to bother head coach Dave Taylor even more than those numbers is their inability to simply to “play” the game of baseball correctly. I had remarked three weeks ago that the Wildcats were playing about as flawless a brand of baseball that I had seen at The Nett in years. The Wildcats had every facet of the game covered, and with their magnificent pitching staff the wins were coming easily. But, this wonderful game of baseball that we love, is not supposed to be easy……and the Wildcats are now paying the price for their nonchalance.
Current Coach Taylor preaches “attention to detail.” He professes, if a group of 25 guys focuses on all the small things, it will add up to great things resulting in solid play and wins. It has been a formula that has served this Chico State program well for nearly 20 years. But, the Wildcats somewhere over the last two weeks have lost their way. Let’s look at a couple of reasons why the Wildcats may have hit this skid….
First, after taking three of four in Pomona two weeks ago the Wildcats had a CCAA record of 23-5 and knew that their remaining 12 games would be at home. A place where they were 11-1 on the season. Without a doubt, a sense of comfort and ease settled over this team. One can surmise that the sharp focus of this team when they were on the road has waned while at home. I have seen this team for much of the season, and there is no doubt they have played the “game of baseball” better on the road. Even when they were winning at home early in the season…..their focus, and attention to detail has not been the same at home. Distractions ? Well, there are many of them. Just look where the Wildcats go after home games. Half walk back to the clubhouse the rest gather with friends, family and girl-friends near the netting behind home-plate. Living in a vacuum at home…..they are not.
Second, despite the Wildcats strong start the schedule over the last few weeks has gotten considerably more difficult. Even though Chico racked up wins against also-rans they hadn’t played some of the better teams in the CCAA. Well, now they are, and those teams (UC San Diego and Sonoma) are coming AFTER Chico State. UCSD was fighting for a playoff spot when they split with the Wildcats last weekend and Sonoma was still bitter about last season’s late inning melt-downs against Chico State in big games. Sonoma ace pitcher Glenn Wallace admitted as much on Saturday, telling the ChicoER, “we still remember last year and it motivates us.” Chico mistakes against the San Bernardino’s, and Stanislaus’ and San Francisco State’s are masked by the Wildcats’ talent. Chico can still win against sub-par teams even when they aren’t playing great baseball. But, against good teams, mistakes are taken advantage of and the Cats are paying the price.
How can Chico get out of this rut ? Simple, have a short memory. This “crisis of confidence” must end NOW. If this 2013 version of the Chico State Baseball team thinks they are in some kind of unique free-fall and nothing will stop it, then they will indeed flame out and this will be end up being a great disappointment. Or, this team can do what several former Chico State teams have done during the Meggs and Taylor eras. They will look themselves in the mirror, be honest about their preparation, attention to detail, and focus and re-commit themselves to team and cause. This team has 19 seniors. Do they really want to go out LIKE THIS ?
Its pretty simple, this team was 30-6……10 days ago. I believe the 2013 Wildcats are the club we saw over the first 36 games. I don’t believe they are the team we have seen over the last week and a half. The question is….What do THEY believe ?