PLAINVILLE - Just two games into the season, it has already become painfully obvious what the Bristol Eastern baseball team’s biggest flaw is: defense. The Lancers have started off the season with two straight losses and in both, the defense has been a major culprit.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bristol Eastern lost a close game with Plainville despite taking the lead twice early. The final score was 4-3 and of the four runs the Lancers allowed, only one was earned, so with better defense, it isn’t unreasonable to think that they could have picked up their first win of the season.
“I thought our pitching was adequate,” head coach Mike Giovinazzo said. “Our defense though, was anything but adequate.”
Jake Violette was the starting pitcher for Bristol Eastern against Plainville and although he was far from dominant, he likely deserved better. The senior gave up seven hits and three walks while also uncorking three wild pitches but he was poised to get out of several jams.
The defense only committed two errors in the game but both of the runners that reached on errors came around to score and proved to be the difference in the game. It wasn’t just errors, though, that cost the Lancers. Little things, such as passed balls and unconverted double-play opportunities, doomed Bristol Eastern.
“Our defense has been awful,” Giovinazzo said. “We are just handing the other team runs at this point.”
Not only does the poor defense lead to runs and potentially losses - as was the case against Plainville - but it could have a lasting effect on a pitcher’s psyche. Knowing that if you let the batters put the ball in play, the defense will make the plays behind you is crucial for a pitcher but, so far, that isn’t the case for Bristol Eastern.
“I try not to let it affect me,” Violette said. “I just go out there and throw my game and hope that they figure it out. When they drop a ball at first base, it’s kind of hard but you have to work through it.”
“You ask your pitchers to throw strikes and have them put balls in play,” Giovinazzo said. “They are putting balls in play and we are not getting the job done. It’s simple mistakes and routine plays that we are not making and it’s extending innings. You can’t extend innings. When you do that you are asking for trouble.”
It’s only two games into the season for the Lancers but Giovinazzo already seems to be fed up with the team defense. The skipper is already at a loss for what to do.
“We go to practice and we work on it every day and then you hope that they are able to relax and execute during the game,” Giovinazzo said. “Right now, I’m in the process of maybe making some changes so that I can find the right guys that can get the job done for me.”
As for what specific changes he might be looking to make, the head coach was not willing to say before taking a deeper look.
“I have to analyze everything that has been going on and then I will make a decision,” he said.
Even with porous defense, the Lancers still had a couple of golden opportunities to either tie or take the lead from Plainville on Wednesday. But another aspect of the game that has plagued Bristol Eastern early in the season has been its inability to get the big hit.
Giovinazzo thinks his team is thinking big fly too much in situations that call for shortening up the stroke and just putting the ball in play, thus leading to routine fly balls.
“Right now, we are just way early on pitches and we are not swinging at the right ones,” said Violette, who had three of Bristol Eastern’s six hits against Plainville. “We are a power hitting team but at times, we have to get base hits instead of looking for home runs.”
It hasn’t been an ideal start for the Lancers but Violette is at least confident that the offense will come around and, when it does, he believes the team could be dangerous.
“When we start hitting, we are going to score a lot of runs,” Violette said. “We just have to start hitting consistently first.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5