Coach Kein, Redskins hope to seize opportunities
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Morris’ baseball program won a regional title. But, 2003 was 11 years ago. That year, Billy Petrick was the Redskins’ ace. He has since climbed up the minor-league ladder, got called up to the majors by the Cubs and had his career cut short by arm injuries.
Meanwhile, the players on this year’s Morris team just keep winning. They have won 28 games so far this season, none bigger than Saturday’s 2-0 win over LaSalle-Peru to break the 11-year regional title drought. The Redskins, who were scheduled to face Peoria Notre Dame at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Class 3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional, beat Ottawa, 2-1, in the regional semifinals. The game before Morris’ game Wednesday, involving Rock Island Alleman and Metamora, was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Anyone who thinks that Morris’ game will actually start at 7 hasn’t spent too much time around a baseball field. The more likely start time will be 7:30 or 8, meaning that the game will run well beyond The Morris Daily Herald’s press time. A full game story will be in Friday’s paper, Wednesday’s weather permitting, of course.
“It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago,” Morris coach Todd Kein said. “But it was 2003 with Billy Petrick that we last won a regional. I was an assistant coach on that team under John Darlington, so this is my first regional title as a head coach.
“Most teams aren’t going to win a regional by scoring four runs in two games, but this team has grown accustomed to playing in tight games. We expect our games to be tight.”
One thing the Redskins haven’t lacked in the postseason is base runners. They might not come around to score very often, but Morris has put a lot of runners on base. Eventually, if enough runners are on base, a hit is going to come at the right time and a crooked number will go up on the scoreboard. Of course, if the Redskins have a three-or four-run lead, they might not know what to do with themselves.
“Boy, a 7-0 lead once in a while would be nice,” senior third baseman Tim Smyk said with a smile after Saturday’s game. “We haven’t had too many of those lately.”
Last Saturday, the Redskins left runners on first and second the first inning, one at second in the second, at second and third in the third, loaded in the fourth, loaded in the fifth and one at second in the sixth. That’s 12 runners left on all together, nine in scoring position. A gapper at any point breaks the game open.
“We know we had a lot of opportunities,” Kein said. “But we won and we move on. They key for me is that we did have those opportunities. Yes, we left runners on base, but at least they were on base. We know that if we keep getting runners on, eventually we will break through with a big hit.
“What we do very well is pitch and play defense. We keep doing those things, and we are going to be in every game. And if we keep putting runners on base, we feel like enough of them will score.”