UW 12-9 SDSU; Berry, Speed Pressure Cook An Instant Classic

Next Game: Today, Sun. 2/19/'12 1 PM @ SDSU, Tony Gwynn Stadium

Game Stream - same as before

Stats Feed - new game, new stats

Weather Forecast

--Again, a game thread if so desired.

Saturday 2/18/'12 UW 12-9 SDSU

W - Zach Wright (1-0), S - Joshua Fredendall (2)

L - Bryan Crabb (0-1)

SDSU Stats Gamecast

UW Box Score

Starting Lineup (inning, substitution):

CF Jayce Ray

LF Joe Meggs

3B Jacob Lamb

DH Branden Berry

C Chase Anselment (bottom-7, C B.K. Santy)

2B Robert Pehl (bottom-7, moves to 1B)

RF Camporeale

1B Trevor Mitsui (bottom-7, INF Andrew Ely to 2B / top-9, SS Erik Forgione pinch-runner at second base)

SS Ty Afenir

RHP George Asmus

If you didn't watch the 9th inning, for which I tried to give a heads up to in-thread, then you missed an exciting finish to a great offensive slug-fest. Maybe I'll use twitter next time so 16 more people can know. I was able to yell out loud in exuberance with a fist pump for the first time since The Alamo Shootout, twice even! This young squad just turned a corner, one of many to come.

Composure, Patience, Resilience and Hair Gel

Note: Due to the late-inning heroics and post length from writing about them, I will be saving minor bits of note from this game to use with the notes from Fri. and Sunday in the series wrap-up on Monday. Plenty enough to fit in this post from the major points. I will try to limit long-winded affairs to Sunday and Weekend Recap write-ups. - SOS

This contest had 6 lead changes including ties. For a baseball game that is a high number, and a great indicator of how much effort both squads put in. The Aztecs can claim they left it all out on the field, but when you commit 2 errors, multiple wild pitches and passed balls that allowed unearned runs and extended innings for UW like offensive rebounds, you make it exponentially harder to win.

The Aztecs fought back twice, down 5-1 in the 6th and 8-5 in the 9th to knot the game back up, but once again they couldn't hold serve when the game is on the line and pressurized by speed. The Dawgs displayed a very patient, aggressive nature tonight, slowly working pieces into the right places and waiting for the right moment to strike, and strike without hesitation.

This team learned how to win their way tonight, to be patient and let the best opportunity present itself, and gained confidence in each other through the collective resilience as a team to never quit. No matter who it is, step up and make the play. The wordless howl from Forlione as he walked to the dugout after he scored the go-ahead run the 9th inning was a primal yell of arrival and awareness. At that moment he felt like he belonged and 'the fear of something new' left, replaced with a confidence only learned from successful execution with the game on the line. That's two clutch game winning moments for Forlione in successive nights to open the season.

The team knows what it takes now, and the realization that the hard work during the off-season does pay off was echoed in the eruption from the Dawgs dugout after Berry sent the game into orbit. That was a team that just gelled I heard bonding over the first HR home plate roast of the new year. Every player on the team it seemed contributed to this roller coaster win, and I think some trust has been established. I wish I had audio for those 2 moments to share, you would understand that I wasn't over exaggerating this. This was a very emotional win for the '12 Diamond Dawgs; managers cherish wins like these early in the season for the character they build, and invaluable experience. You can't gain the lessons learned last night anywhere but last night. Hopefully they used the concrete stuff young people love to put in their hair these days...

Torrid Hitting

Offensive Team Game Stats: .425 AVG / 12 Runs / 17 Hits / 11 Left On Base / .417 (5 - 12 ) with 2 outs / .389 (7-18) RISP / .556 (5-9) Hitting Lead-Off / .600 (3-5) Runner on 3B / .250 (1-4) with Bases Loaded

They worked numerous full counts, every Dawg hitter, and wore down the Aztec pitchers quickly, fouling off-speed pitches away to draw walks on bad pitches or get prime pitches to hit. We also hit the other way constantly, taking whats given and getting hits. For a team with a lot of youth on paper, everyone seems composed at the plate like Seniors at first blush. The veterans are definitely leading the way and showing the underclassmen a thing or two. That Freshman recruiting class full of top WA and CA hitters is legit. 17 hits and a .425 avg as a team is getting it done in a big way at the plate. Meggs was a patient hitter in his college days, 7th all-time for career walks at UCLA, and his lineup is definitely reflecting that.

We put the game into motion constantly with many bunts and hit-and-runs, dictating the pace and forcing the action. SDSU had no choice but to react, and Meggs wanted to force them to make a play all night long. Like a gambler, he can go all-in at any moment and understands greater risk = greater reward. Meggs will force opposing coaches to always be on their toes and alert. He wants to catch you dozing, then once your alert, rattle your pitchers into passed balls, wild pitches and hit batters by putting pressure on your team to not make a single throwing error, or else your speed will make them pay. When a pitcher is paying more attention to your base runners with look-backs and pick-off attempts than your batter, runners are doing their job.

It has become very clear Meggs values the pinch-runner very highly, and is addicted to using them. By constantly subbing in runners and batters you create an air of uncertainty; they never know what your going to do, because your willing to do anything, at any time. This can backfire, and almost did, or it can win the game like it did tonight.

1-5th Inning Recap:

We left the bases loaded in the first. 1B Trevor Mitsui, the top hitter in WA HS last year, got fooled by 3 curve balls to strike out swinging. He looked nervous while going 0-2 w/2 K's swinging in his first 2 collegiate AB's.

Starting pitcher RHP George Asmus made his debut today, and he didn't disappoint. He deserved this win leaving the game after the 5th inning ahead 5-1 and thoroughly dominated the Aztec lineup after a shaky 1st inning. He works very, very "deliberately" and was on cruise control only giving up 1 run on 4 hits with 2 walks and 5 K's.

In the bottom half of the first Asmus walked the second batter he faced, C Romanski, and it cost him as the third batter he faced, 2B Muno doubled to left center to drive him in. Didn't like the start, but Asmus got the jitters out.

LF Joe Meggs, who had a great game again in the field and at the plate leading the team with 3 hits, singled to center to start the top of the 3rd, Lamb and Anselment walked to load the bases. Pehl, who was another key contributor with 3 RBI's, got his first 2 collegiate RBI's here with a textbook swing to take an outside fastball to the opposite field and single to left center. After the 3rd inning we have stranded 7 base runners, and its rather annoying.

Aztec Starting pitcher RHP Travis Pitcher was hit hard all night long, and consistently had trouble getting outs when he was ahead in the count, falling behind once ahead it seemed like every at-bat. The Dawgs grinded him down, and he was out by the 4th inning.

The Dawgs posted 3 more runs in the 5th as they just kept getting solid hits and running out a few infield singles throughout the game, working the Aztecs bullpen, who have only 1 power arm in the lineup.

Berry and Anselment singled, then Pehl hit a hard shot right at Aztec SS Reibenspies feet that shot between his legs for an E6; runner scores. Then Mitsui wakes up. He went 0-2 in the count, fouled a ball off and then went the other way on a fastball low and outside for a line drive single over the second baseman. It's now 4-1 UW.

6-9th Inning Recap:

Lets Start the real recap here in the 6th, with the scene set, when the game actually started after both starting pitches got the hook and the game went into The Bullpen Dimension.

RHP Palecwitz has had a long journey to today, but it just wasn't in the cards for him still. Hard luck seems to follow the tall, promising flamethrower. He has a great build, filled in and broad at the top, thick below, so you can see where he gets power from. His issue is command; he was all over the place, and so he started to "think" too much and not "pitch". When you do that as a pitcher, you lock up your throwing motion, and your whole body becomes rigid and out of sync, because you trying to locate/aim your pitches too much. He did that, dropped his velocity to find his release point again, and before you could blink it was a tie ballgame. Ya just gotta bounce back again kid, tomorrow is a new slate.

Highly touted Aztec flame throwing Freshman prospect RHP Cederoth is tall and does indeed throw heat. He had great command, mixed in some off-speed brilliantly and set us down handily. This kid has promise, too. Both worked the 6th, and we lost the battle.

Palecwitz hit 2 batters, balked, gave up a double and single to let SDSU come roaring back and knot the game up at 5-5. To be fair, LHP Acker came in to replace him and gave up a hit to allow in a run charged to Palecwitz, but made a great pick-off move to first to nail speedster CF Smith between first and second and stop the bleeding. No more win for starter Asmus, so the bullpen fight for the win now commences.

The Dawgs came right back in the top of the 7th to take back the lead. Anselment and Pehl hit successive doubles to drive in 1, and Mitsui hit a sac fly to deep center.

We got 1 more in the top of the 8th, as Aztecs CF Smith made the same mistake as last night. Pehl hit a rope right at Smith, and this time it was his hesitation that tripped him up. He broke late on the ball, and in his stumble forward to attempt a late dive on the ball it glanced off his glove to roll behind him, scoring Santy who had just singled to right on another line drive. Fundamentals win games, and again it cost the Aztecs dearly this time around, that and a poor bullpen performance. On the other hand, we drilled line drives all night.

That didn't faze the Aztecs, though, who answered right back in the bottom of the frame. A pinch hit for Thornton and a walk to Zier by Dawg reliever RHP Adam Cimber, who again got rocked surrendering solid hits, was the start of bad things. A submarine delivery can actually greatly help a batter, and I am going to work on a piece about the delivery this week. In comes RHP Zach Wright for the Dawgs, who let in just enough runs to tie the game again, setting him up for the win. Sneaky. He beaned Munoz to load the bases, and Torres hit a sec fly to deep left, 1 run in.

Next was a huge momentum swing, literally. Aztec CF Smith hit a deep shot to the right field gap that brought the crowd back into the game as the Aztecs, once again, get a clutch hit to tie the game back up. Wright gets Romanski to ground out, but the damage is done. 8-8 going into the last frame and now a 1 inning game.

I swear, after last night, some smack talk went on between Dawg 1B Berry and his old opponents over on the other bench. This game was a heavyweight bout with big momentum swings and 2 teams that acted like a title was on the line at times. I know I heard some good jeering going on at times.

Aztec closer RHB Crabb has a history of losing his poise. That's not a trait you want your closer to have. He has electric stuff, but suffers from the same situation as Palecwitz above. He blew the game for the Aztecs and got the loss while looking very nervous and almost defeated at times. This guy just looks shell shocked from the years of bad luck with how quick he gets down.

INF Andrew Ely singled to lead off the 9th with another good hit, showing he can be a good jack-of-all-trades and very useful in late inning situations. Jayce Ray walked, and then Meggs won the game with one chess move that looked almost useless at first glance. Ely is supposed to be fast, and one of the best base stealers we have. He was on second, 1 out, with Joe Meggs up to bat. The Skipper subbed in Forlione, the hero of last night, in for Ely. The broadcast thought it perplexing and useless, if we considered Ely to be just a half step slower than Forlione. Forlione is a half step faster, and it won the ballgame.

Joe Meggs hit a soft little bouncing ball exactly in the hold between first and second that died in shallow right, in the absolute middle of all 3 nearest defenders. Forlione was gone at first chance, and steamed on with a mission from god, as my stepfather would have phrased it. RF Greg Allen had already gunned down Pehl at the plate earlier and it wasn't even close, he has an absolute rocket arm like a RF should. Greg Allen is a stud, watch out for his name down the line. Allen only had to throw the ball maybe 120' and put it right on the money on the 3rd base side of the plate in one bounce for catcher Romanski to make an easy tag. Only thing is, Forlione isn't a big dude (but has HUGE heart) and he dove head first, sliding his left hand under the tag to beat the tag as it sailed over him a quarter second too late, a half step ahead. Forlione hopped right up and let the world know he just the won the game, again. He's a gamer and competitor, and easily a future team leader in the making.

I'm going to make .gif's of this game with my footage, it was one of the best Diamond Dawgs games I've seen. The best part? That wasn't the nail in the coffin, for the Dawgs saved the best for last.

Yellow Berry Power

The Diamond Dawgs came out wearing an odd, for baseball, uniform combination. Purple caps and stirrups with gray pants, OK, but I don't know about the very "yellow-gold" tops w/purple lettering. I'll try to get some pics if I can. Reminded me a lot of LSU. There it goes again, that surfacing Louisiana link... It didn't seem to bother the Dawgs one bit though, for yellow fired the kill shot over black and red tonight, again, only this time it wasn't a dagger. No, Berry had to have bigger aspirations if he wanted to leap Forlione in the weekend team MVP rankings, despite batting .600 / 6 for 10, .500 with RISP, a HR and no strikeouts to start the season.

He swung for the fence on two previous pitches, fouling both off, from Aztec closer Cobb but wasn't going to miss a third offering down the pipe. Berry obliterated the belt-high fastball down the middle over the left-center wall so forcefully it almost left the park before the cameraman could pan on the landing spot. I'm guessing it was around 410-30' on a rope, and even with the new bats that sweet spot sound is unmistakable.

Berry finally delivered the knockout punch for the Dawgs that the Aztecs couldn't overcome, in a game they "played all-in" to win. Closer Joshua Fredendall came in again to close out the 9th, and shut down the Aztecs after allowing a quick run to get his second save in as many tries. Give SDSU + marks for not quitting when down twice, holding nothing back at home in front of a good crowd, trying to atone for blowing the lead and souring the good vibes from the Stephen Strasburg number retirement on opening night.

Berry showed his friends and family at home why he left San Diego and went north to rainy Seattle; to play in the PAC-12. Nothing against the Mountain West and SDSU, but the talent level isn't the same, as evident in these past 2 games, especially on the mound. SDSU is the local baseball hub largely in part to Coach Tony Gwynn, and many of the players on his roster have played against or in leagues with Berry growing up, including Aztecs closer Crabb and starting pitcher Swanson last night. The Aztecs radio announcer was lamenting the fact that Gwynn didn't recruit Berry harder, being a local product. I'm pretty sure a hitter like Gwynn knew of Berry and tried to sell him on staying home, but he can't offer Berry the prestige of performing in the Premier bAseball Conference.

Berry Scouting Notes:

Very quick hands and hips, he exploded through the zone like a wound up coil with great bat-head speed and perfect downward angle, head down and just a twist of the lead foot to start the windup. That's what strong gluteal, core and thigh muscles do; you don't need a leg kick to generate momentum when you have a strong lower body. Sure, you can get power from upper body strength, but great power only starts from the ground up in baseball, for both throwing and batting. Berry faced a lot of 90+ MPH hurlers in his California playing days, and it shows. Can hit inside-out, takes outside pitches the other way with power, great patience and eye to fight off junk constantly, working counts into his favor to get fastballs. I'm really looking forward to having a cleanup hitter this year that at any moment can change the game with one swing of his big boy bat. Welcome to the Dawgs Berry, glad your here!

Go Dawgs!

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