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    Feb. 27, 2014

    168 Little Hours

    I’d be willing to bet not one of our players knows who Dinah Washington was.  Our team should be familiar with a song she sang.  What a Difference a Day Makes was one of the top songs in 1959.  I doubt many of our players’ parents were even alive yet to see Dinah’s version rocket up the charts that year.  That shouldn’t make the lyrics any less poignant to the Huskies.  Just substitute the word, “week” for “day,” and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer might well have been singing about us this week.

    At this time of year, seven days can make a big difference to a college baseball team from the North.  We only get to play on Friday through Sunday far from home until mid-March, and so, the preparation indoors between those bursts of competition is key. 

    Our first weekend didn’t go according to plan.  We couldn’t have hit water if we fell out of a boat, couldn’t catch a cold, and pitched like we were allergic to the strike zone.  In short, I don’t believe we could play worse than we did. 

    If nothing else, the three losses to three quality teams provided a measuring stick.  We had to get better quickly.  We did.  The game of baseball will humble those who play and coach it with cruel efficiency.  One doesn’t have to wait long for failure in our game.  We found plenty of it in losses to Ohio State and Indiana State that Friday and Saturday.  On Sunday, against Auburn, we faced a high-profile freshman named Keegan Thompson.  He was very good, but it seemed like the hitters in our lineup thought his name was Owen Three.  We never really threatened to beat the Tigers, and flew home with our tail between our legs.  The next day, we got to work on refining skills and restoring confidence.  Before we flew to South Carolina, we had three good practices and a couple of lifts.

    Jordan Tabakman gave us a better start after a rocky first inning five days later against Wichita State, and we had much better at-bats on the whole.  Jack Sundberg really set the tone all weekend with unselfish plate appearances, and the offense began to show signs of life.  The bullpen performances were very strong, and we were able to hop on the plane in Myrtle Beach with a good taste in our mouths after three W’s against three good teams.

    Those victories were hard earned.  The team impressed with its resilience.  On our second flight from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach on Thursday night, we encountered fog over South Carolina.  When the pilot came on the speaker in flight with, “Folks, we’re going to have to turn around,” I didn’t hear any complaints from our guys.  They simply shrugged their shoulders and shared bemused grins.  When we landed back in Atlanta just before midnight and were told Delta didn’t have any more hotel rooms for the group, the guys wore it.  We all bunked down between three gates in the T Concourse of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, and tried to get a few winks before a “take-two” flight at 6 a.m. Friday. 

    With twice-hourly announcements over the loudspeaker, floors for beds, an overzealous vacuum crew, and fluorescent lights undimmed, we all endured a fitful few hours before re-boarding.  Our CPIA counselor, Alana, was making her first trip with us, and not only was she baptized with fire at the T Concourse Inn, she also managed to wear a freshly painted white wall on her black fleece.  Coach Mac, who can routinely be relied upon for a story or five, was awakened by a curious toddler’s hand to his face around 4:30 am.  Apparently, the inquisitive youngster mistook our pitching coach’s mug for a vending machine button, or thought he might have expired on the floor. 

    We made it to the hotel in Myrtle Beach in time for the buffet breakfast.  Thankfully, our game was pushed back due to weather, and even though a few guys had to take an exam in the hotel, most were able to manage some sleep on Friday before we played Wichita State late Friday night.

    We played better in all facets of the game, but still have much room for improvement.  We have to find our rhythm on the base paths and get more aggressive.  We must cut down on our walks, but the pitchers allowed just three runs in all three games.  A few guys still need to find their timing at the plate.  However, we played much less selfishly in the second weekend.  Of the ten runners on 3rd with less than two outs, we were able to score nine.  We were 6-for-7 in executing bunts, and worked pitchers for 20+ pitch innings eleven times in the three games in Myrtle Beach.  All were vast improvements over our debut weekend.  All in all, it was a nice bounce-back team effort in all three wins versus WSU, George Mason, and Illinois.

    The same Huskies were in uniform both weeks.  They just didn’t perform the same.  Thank goodness, we were different…and better.  With apologies to Dinah…

    What a difference a week makes

    One-hundred sixty-eight little hours

    Brought the sun and the flowers

    Where there used to be rain…..

    What a difference a week makes

    And the difference is you

    As we board at Bradley again this afternoon to face another three-game challenge from Lipscomb in chilly Nashville, we hope the results are the same we had in South Carolina.  We are facing a knuckleballer tomorrow.  That is going to be different.  We’ll have the same opponent for three games in a row.  That will be different.  It will be below fifty degrees.  That will be different.  However, if we learned anything over the course of the last six games, external factors don’t matter as much as the internal ones.  The attitude, the concentration, the effort, and the unselfishness as a true team will make the difference.  The difference isn’t the other pitcher, the weather, or the guys in the opposite dugout.  The difference is us. 

    Of course, we’d all welcome one external factor being different on this trip.  Let’s hope our layover in Baltimore doesn’t turn into a sleepover. 

    -        JFP