Here at FU, we bring Fall Practice to an end by competing in a “World Series.” This is common for Division-1 programs, but the Paladins do it a little differently than most.
“The Banana Split Series” was the brainchild of our head coach Ron Smith. The name came from everyone’s favorite treat, the banana split, which is the reward to each member of the winning squad (at the losing team’s expense of course.)
This year’s Banana Split series had another twist.
As I said in my first post, I am currently sidelined with a “wonky elbow.” I am not the only main character of the weekly injury report; I share the spotlight with senior outfielder Will Owens. Will and I are not your average members of the disabled list. Instead of sitting hopelessly in the dugout, we have been running errands, taking care of the field, and helping out the coaching staff in any way possible.
Will and I thought that we were just being helpful, but the coaches had much bigger plans for us while we were injured. They were training us to be the two managers of the Banana Split Series. Will is a salty vet with great baseball knowledge, so even though I knew I had my hands full, I accepted the challenge.
The next step was for us to choose our teams. The tradition calls for the coaching staff to split up the seniors, who then choose their squads in a very strategic and intense draft. Because of my role as the skipper, I was invited to the draft. We had come up with team names, but because they were inside jokes that would take a lot of explaining, I will stick to the names of Team Owens and Team Browne.
A coin flip gave Team Owens the first pick, and the draft was under way. The exact sequence of picks is confidential information, but there were a few common themes. Team Owens focused on starting pitching, speed, and experience where Team Browne was focused on the power bats and the young gun slingers.
After separated team practices on Thursday, the stage was set for Friday’s opening game. The matchup on the mound was between Senior RHP Bobby Lyne, and Junior RHP Ben Carlson. Lyne started on Friday nights for the ‘Dins, last year, while Carlson is a JUCO transfer who has had a great fall.
Unfortunately for me, the bats that I drafted were silenced by Bobby Lyne and the rest of Team Owens’ pitching staff. Also, the young guns that I brought in from the pen did not have the experience to compete in such a hostile environment, so Team Owens took game one by the score of 5-1.
Saturday’s pitching matchup was also interesting. Team Owens gave the ball to the number one overall draft pick, LHP Nate Smith. I was countering with freshman RHP Elliot Warford. Elliot threw pretty well this fall, but Nate has flat out shoved. After a summer of silencing bats in the Northwood’s League, Nate continued his dominance by striking out more than half of the batters he faced this fall. Opponents were hitting a cool .036 off of Nate, so things did not look very promising for my squad.
Not only is Nate my teammate, but he is also one of my roommates. Because of how well he was throwing, I knew that we needed to psyche him out in order to have any chance of winning Saturday’s game. My idea was to frequently remind Nate of all the major draft flops in the history of sports. This is what Nate saw when he got to his locker on Saturday morning.
Unfortunately for me, my strategy did not work as planned. Nate and Elliot both earned no decisions, and it was up to our bullpens. After a few errors and a key hit by senior outfielder Andrew Cadger, I found myself 0-2 in my managerial debut.
Obviously coach felt bad for me, so he gave us another chance by scheduling a mandatory Sunday game. Double or nothing.
Being swept is never fun, so I encouraged my players to do everything it takes to win this last game. Will Miller (left) and Will Muzika (right) responded very well to my pep talk, by getting completely “swagged out”. Everyone knows the saying, “Look good, play good.”
Even though we were the most stylish team, we lost once again. Sophomore Tyler Wood threw a gem, and Team Browne fell by the score of 5-1.
To the blind eye, this last picture would show a dejected manager who has just been swept.
While I do look a little hopeless, this picture should actually provide hope and joy to all Paladin fans.
Look at the thousands of coeds packing the stands! If this many young females came for a fall scrimmage, just imagine how crazy it will be in the spring! The other members of the SoCon will not be able to handle this environment.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the action from the 2011 Banana Split Series, and I will post again soon about everything else that is going on here at Furman.
Until Next Time,