Mental fortitude eludes Pam Pack

Published 2:19 pm Friday, March 25, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS STAYING ALERT: An attentive Jacob Smith avoids getting picked off leading off first base.

STAYING ALERT: An attentive Jacob Smith avoids getting picked off leading off first base.

Washington relief pitcher struck out Ayden-Grifton’s Jomar Bynum in the top of the seventh to help the Pam Pack retire the Chargers in order. The defensive effort, which also featured a groundout to shortstop and a fly out to right field, left the door open for the offense to rally from a four-run deficit and walk off with a win over the Chargers.

The coaching staff had one message for the boys. They were told that this was an opportunity to show their maturity by grinding out a win. In their loss at Edenton, the Pam Pack stormed back with five runs in the seventh to tie the game. Before that, they scored four times in the sixth, but came up one run short of a comeback at home against Riverside.

The team had even seen it happen to them. Rose used five runs in the sixth to battle back from down 7-4 to hand the Pam Pack a loss in its season opener.

But for a plethora of reasons, Washington’s offense sputtered by sending just four batters to the plate in the seventh. The boys ultimately lost, 6-2, for the fourth time this season. It also marked the end of a three-game winning streak as Washington now sets its sights on the Northside Easter Tournament.

Poor officiating made mental toughness a necessity. The umpires botched dropped third strike calls, pickoff attempts, and had an inconsistent strike zone, among many other deficiencies.

“It messes the guys up mentally. In their head, they don’t know if the pitch is going to be a strike or ball,” Washington coach Kevin Leggett said. “It’s hard to get any rhythm, hitting especially. The plays in the field, we made some errors. Mental mistakes and things like that. They made some bad calls and it’s tough to get any kind of rhythm hitting.

“After those first couple of innings, we didn’t really do too much. Not from good pitching, but from not knowing what the calls were going to be.”

ROUTINE PLAYS: Chris Sulc makes an infield play to first base. Some mental errors held Washington back both offensively and defensively.

Charger Clay Wilson was one of the better pitchers that Washington has faced, but the men in blue did play a role in stifling the offense.

Yes, that made it tough on the Pam Pack, but the officiating plagued the visiting Chargers, too. In the end, it came down to Ayden-Grifton being able to better overcome those things they couldn’t help.

Washington has shown improvement in many facets of the game, but the mental sharpness to comeback late in a game still seems to elude the boys. Playing a handful of games between Saturday and Monday in the Easter tournament will be a proving ground for them.

Playing with mental toughness — not just when trying to rally late, but throughout an entire game — may be a factor that can help separate the Pam Pack from the rest of the conference once the league slate begins. The boys have shown they have the talent to make a splash in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference this season. Perhaps that’s the missing link.

“We’re just going to keep working on the same things to get better,” Leggett said. “Hopefully by spring break, we’ll be ready to go for conference.”