Pam Pack picks good time to lose

Published 12:13 am Thursday, April 27, 2017

Washington’s dugout was an emotional rollercoaster on Wednesday evening. The Pam Pack hosted North Johnston to start the two-game series between the two that will most likely determine the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference champion.

There was some tension within the team. There was plenty of confidence stemming from the 10-game win streak Washington rode into the game. However, the boys hadn’t played in nine days and weather washed out most of their practice time leading up to the game.

The visiting Panthers siphoned Washington’s energy and quieted the crowd with five runs in the top of the second. They endured a rally that saw the Pam Pack score four times in the sixth before tying — and nearly winning — the game in the seventh.

It was North Johnston, though, that broke a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning with a six-run explosion en route to an 11-5 win. The team, not long removed from celebratory high fives, was getting increasingly frustrated with each run the Panthers scored. Even Cody Godley and Drew Ferguson leading off with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the eighth did little to bolster morale.

If there is such a thing, Washington picked a great game to lose. First off, at least a share of the league title is still up for grabs Friday at North Johnston.

More importantly, though, the Pam Pack is again familiarized with the sting that accompanies a loss. It’s an important feeling to remember as the last three games of the season give way to the playoffs.

Washington’s coaching staff spent ample time after the game to break down the team’s shortcomings. A lot of them can be traced back to discipline, they said. Head coach Kevin Leggett harped on the importance of quality at-bats.

“We just got to hammer it in their heads,” Leggett said. “When we came back and scored five, it’s because we took pitches, made them throw bad pitches, got walks, put it in play and got errors. You just have to have a good approach. … I can’t do anything else than tell them.”

Assistant coach Rick Anderson told pitchers to dial in and be more obedient with his pitch calling.

“We just looked for strikes. We came out, we weren’t throwing strikes, and gave up some 0-2 hits,” Leggett said. “That’s one thing you can’t do. If you have two strikes on a guy, you can’t give him one to hit. That gave them a lot of gas to start the game.”

Washington also has plenty of pitching saved for Friday. Tripp Barfield, Tyler Harrell and Chris Sulc were sent out on Wednesday. Sulc only threw 23 pitches, so he should be available again, in addition to Cody Godley, Frederick Holscher and Logan Little.

North Johnston can’t say the same.

“The guy that started tonight was their No. 3, but he’s the one I least wanted to see,” Leggett said. “He hides the ball well. I think he knew that, too, because we didn’t do too well against him last year. The last pitcher, we hit him pretty well. … I feel good going into Friday’s game.”

As he should. Despite a number of deficiencies that were highlighted, Washington came inches from winning. Chris Sulc attempted to score from third on a hit-and-run with Cooper Anderson, but was narrowly thrown out.

All Washington needs to do is fine-tune these few things that held them back on Wednesday. It’s nothing new. These are aspects of the game, for the most part, that let the Pam Pack win 10 in a row. It’s a good reminder that the team needs to be at its best from here on out.