Thomasville Times Enterprise

February 27, 2014

Night Hawks eye pivotal weekend series

Daniel Kramer
CNHI

THOMASVILLE —

Conference play looms the Night Hawks as they head into this weekend’s crucial home series against Ave Maria.

Thomas last played the Gyrenes on this weekend a year ago on their diamond. The Night Hawks were shut out in the first two games of the series before bouncing back to win the finale.

Thomas coach Mike Lee believes Ave Maria will present similar game traits this go-around.

“We should see the same type of pitching we saw last year; they’ve got a few of those guys back,” Lee said. “And they did pretty well with us.”

Ave Maria is a team Lee said “likes to execute a lot of small ball,” meaning they bunt early and often, steal bases and move their runners aggressively.

“We’ve got to play close to mistake-free if we’re going to hold them off from scoring,” Lee said.

Errorless baseball has been a recent woe for Thomas, though.

After a near flawless start in its first two weeks, the Night Hawks endured their first losing streak of the season – one that extended to six games until Wednesday’s last ditch, 7-6 win.

During that span, Thomas was plagued by nine errors – many of which cost the game.

“We didn’t really talk about [the losing streak] so much as we talked about how we can get better,” Lee said. “If we can keep that our main focus, the results will come.

“At the end of the day, we can’t worry about if we won or lost [non-conference games]. We worry about if we got better.”

Thomas remains atop the Sun Conference standings at 5-1, and will look to burgeon that cushion versus Ave Maria.

Lee expressed the vitality of winning the conference games early in the season.

“That way, if things go wrong late in the year, you’re not having to scramble as much,” he said. “We let a few of them get away from us last year and had to scramble at the end and didn’t get it done.

“Mid-week games, we obviously want to win, but right now the focus is on the weekends and it will be for the next five weekends.”

Lee will send  aces, Kurt Gens and Ben Overman to the mound for Games 1 and 2, then relief pitcher John Gainey will get his second start of the season in Game 3.

“He’s done a good job,” Lee said of Gainey. “I think its just a good match-up for us this weekend and probably next. After that, we’ll re-evaluate.”

First pitch on Friday is at 1 p.m. Saturday’s doubleheader starts at noon.