Things have started to unravel for a pair of Robeson County baseball teams in the Three Rivers Conference.
And if you have any suggestions on how to halt the madness, I’m sure they would be welcomed by Red Springs coach Chris Howell or Kelly Chavis, his counterpart at St. Pauls.
Tuesday’s 10-0 loss to West Columbus was the culmination of everything that’s gone wrong over the last two weeks since the Red Devils debuted at No. 1 in the county poll and began the season 7-0. Many of those woes have started in the batter’s box.
“We haven’t done a good job of getting quality at-bats these last few games and we’ve had to deal with a few problems off the field,” Howell said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “You teach life lessons at the high school level and we’ve told our guys to put team before self, not self before team.
“Until we all get on the same page, it’s not going to get any better.”
The Red Devils (8-5, 2-3) had to bench several key contributors during Tuesday’s defeat and Howell isn’t sure when his lineup will return to full strength. Until then, a handful of players with limited varsity experience will be called upon to pick up the slack.
“We’ve got to be fair across the board and that’s what I’ve told my team,” Howell said. “It’s disappointing that the season has unfolded like this after the good start, but whether you’re a starter or a reserve, you have to face consequences for your actions.”
Elsewhere in the area, the season has hit a rough patch for a variety of different reasons for Chavis and the Bulldogs. Routine plays have become treacherous in recent games and the team’s confidence has been shaken since squandering a 6-3 lead in the fifth against Lumberton in the Slugfest.
The Bulldogs (6-8, 2-3) have lost six of their last nine, a stretch that started with a disappointing 8-7 loss at Red Springs. In that game, St. Pauls held a 7-5 lead in the seventh before the Red Devils responded with three two-out runs in walk-off fashion against Dustin Canady.
The game-winning play came on a two-run error that sailed over the fence beyond first base.
The two teams match up again today in St. Pauls with a lot on the line. Matching 2-3 league records means the loser is all but eliminated from conference championship contention with only four Three Rivers contests remaining. Whoever wins has an opportunity at regaining their footing in a wide-open conference down the stretch.
“Our guys are going to have to want to win and have the ability to shake off mistakes,” Chavis said after St. Pauls kicked it around seven times in Tuesday’s loss to Fairmont. “You’re going to have errors and things that don’t go your way in high school baseball, but you got to show an ability to bounce back and recover.”
Moving out of a slump at the plate is on the agenda for both teams. Red Springs’ batting average dipped below .265 for the first time this season after mustering a couple hits at conference leader West Columbus this week while the Bulldogs were silenced for a second consecutive game against Fairmont’s Alex Britt.
“It’s a big game in the conference, plus the rivalry factor and all,” Howell said.
Added Chavis: “All of our games are important, but our players must realize that and care about winning.”
Brad Crawford works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Robesonian. Reach him at 910-272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.