Furman baseball 2011: "hold the rope
Published: Friday, February 25, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 23, 2011 16:05
Legendary LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman once posed a question to his players."I remember at the start of the season, I hung a rope off the front of my desk. I told the fellas, 'Imagine you are holding onto that rope, hanging over a cliff. Who would you want to be holding the other end?'"
"They said names of various buddies, heroes and coaches. I said to them, 'Those were all good choices, but when you can answer the question with 'any teammate,' then that is what you will be, a team."
Coach Bertman told this story to the Furman baseball team the night before its season opener against Ohio on Friday. After the Paladins engineered a 4-0 sweep of the Bobcats last weekend, it looks like the speech stuck.
The sweep marks Furman's first 4-0 start since 1998. Back then, games were spread out over multiple days. This year, the Paladins began their season with a full weekend of play, including a double header on Saturday.
Early in Friday afternoon's first game, very few could have predicted the outcome of the series. Watching the first three innings was like watching sleep-walkers slowly dig themselves into a deeper and deeper hole.
The Paladins hadn't found their groove yet and fans wondered if the team was going to catch a break. The Furman nine was down 3-0 and had tallied just one hit.
Not until the bottom of the fourth inning did Furman wake up from its daze. With second baseman Will Muzika (last year's SoCon freshman of the year) on third and catcher Paul Nitto on first, DH Reese Wade hit a much-needed double into right center, allowing Muzika to score and sending Nitto to third. Right fielder Will Miller followed with a single that scored both Nitto and Wade, tying the game at 3.
From that point on, everything went right for Furman. Pitching was solid and the offense was consistent. By the end of the weekend, the Paladins had swept the Bobcats with wins of 6-3, 12-5, 10-3 and 7-0.
Some of the key players that contributed to Furman's success include outfielder Will Owens, who went 7-for-14, Miller and Muzika, who combined for 10 RBIs and J.B. Jenkins, who had 19 outs and no errors at shortstop.
Another highlight from the weekend is that freshman Tyler Wood was named the Southern Conference pitcher of the week.
In the 7-0 win against Ohio on Sunday, Wood threw 86 pitches over eight solid innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six. The 6'2, 217 lb righty from Missouri earned praise for his control (he threw 56 strikes) and his stamina (throwing 86 pitches in eight innings is no easy feat).
All in all, the baseball team has had an amazing start to its 2011 season. The bar has been raised from last season's 19-37 campaign and expectations for 2011 are high.
As long as the team plays like it did this past weekend, the season should be a successful one. If the Paladins can continue to "hold the rope" for each other, they will make this season a truly exciting one.
Furman's next home game is on March 23 against USC Upstate. The weather should be perfect-come and support the Paladins!