Thomasville Times Enterprise

March 29, 2014

Night Hawks look to lock postseason berth

Daniel Kramer


Thomas coach Mike Lee said the Night Hawks utilized the two-day delay of their weekend Sun Conference series with NAIA No. 24 Southeastern to bulk work in the batting cage.

The Night Hawks are hitting a formidable .289, but that figure is much lower than the .363 they were hitting a month ago.

“Any time we’re under .300, I’m certainly not satisfied,” Lee said. 

“But in looking at it, we’ve seen some really good pitching over the last few weeks. [Conference leader] Embry-Riddle, [NAIA No. 1] Faulkner, teams like that, even Spring Hill, they’ve got some good arms.”

Lee added that the batting average doesn’t bother him so much as the offensive production.

The Night Hawks have left 274 runners on base this season (8.3 per game) – 110 more than the amount of runs they’ve scored (164).

Thomas is also averaging nearly two errors per game (55 total), which Lee said has been an Achilles heel as well.

But perhaps the largest speed bump the Night Hawks have endured this season was Tuesday’s lineup shift that stemmed from Lee’s disappointment in effort.

The coach scratched six of his nine starters after Thomas suffered its fifth shutout loss of the season.

Lee, however, said that he plans to revert to his original lineup for the three game series against Southeastern after a productive few practices this week.

“The guys had good focus the past two days in the cage,” he said. “Hopefully Tuesday got their attention.

Lee added that the shuffle was also a benefit for the lower-tier players who hadn’t seen much playing time this season.

“Now if I need them, they’re a little more ready than they were.”

The Night Hawks need to win the atypical Sunday-Monday series for much more than character development.

Thomas (18-15, 12-6) currently holds the fourth and final seed for the Sun Conference Tournament, and could lock up a berth with a pair of wins and some help around the league.

Southeastern holds the No. 2 spot, and looks to present the toughest challenge Thomas has faced since facing Embry-Riddle, the current first place team, earlier this month.

“They’re very solid on the mound,” Lee said of Southeastern. “Probably the best pitching we’ve seen since Riddle.”

Lee will send Kurt Gens and Ben Overman to the mound for Sunday’s doubleheader, and the emerging Justin Hicks will assume duties for Monday’s game.  

“He’s really come along. He’s been our bullpen guy for weekend series, not getting a whole lot of innings, but we’ve been using him a lot more.”