Every coach teaches players to be aggressive on the bases. It is any coach’s dream to see his player hustle down to third base with two outs and round third like he is going to score, or to see his player single to center and drive hard around first base like he is going to second.
On Friday, April 15 as the Garaway Pirates took on the Tusky Valley Trojans, the reason coaches teach players to do those kinds of things played out to perfection.
With the score tied at 6 in the bottom of the seventh and one out, Garaway center-fielder B.J. Schwartz lashed a single to the gap in right-center field. As the Trojans outfielders moved in, the center-fielder bobbled the ball, just a bit.
That was the open invitation, as far as Schwartz was concerned.
Schwartz is a smart, aggressive and fast player who is always looking to take a base. Once he hit the ball, he never stopped running hard. He took an aggressive route to first, took a monster turn, and never stopped once he saw the ball was bobbled.
He cruised into second base easily, when many players would have assumed the ball would be fielded cleanly, and wouldn’t have gone all-out to first as though they were going to second.
That move turned into pure gold when the next batter, Tanner Petitte, hammered a ball through the hole at short.
The ball reached the left-fielder in a hurry, but the always-hustling Schwartz would not be denied, his hard-charging head-first slide into home scoring the game winning run.
While many will talk about Petitte’s walk-off hit, as well they should, Garaway coach Justin Elmore was more pleased with Schwartz’ unyielding willingness to play the game hard, the way it should be played.
“What a phenomenal job of running the bases,” said Elmore. “That was huge, and you can’t overlook how important that was. We do a drill in the gym, a base running drill, and we have turned into a much more aggressive base running team. I am glad the guys finally got to see just how important that kind of thing can be in a game. B.J. took a hard turn, saw the bobble and never looked back. He took nothing for granted, and got where he needed to be because of it. He was able to score the game-winning run because of it.”
In a game that focuses so much on fundamentals, in this case, it was simply a player understanding the value of playing hard, all the time, that got the job done.