Pirates look to make the big plays

Sports Editor

Park Center head baseball coach Nathan Johnson entered the 2017 campaign knowing full well that his program was currently in the midst of its rebuilding stage.

Park Center sophomore Tanner Stein takes a big swing at a pitch during the Pirates’ 7-1 loss to Armstrong May 2. (Sun Post staff photo by Chris Chesky)

With a strong crop of young players, as well as some talented veterans, Johnson knew his team had the talent to compete, but the Pirates would have to learn the ins and outs of varsity baseball as the season went on.

“We stress that we either win or we learn,” Johnson said. “You have to take something from the game, from the experience.

“When you win it is easy to overlook what happened and if you have that result you don’t want it’s about why we didn’t get the result we wanted and how we can learn from those certain plays, or at-bats or pitches and putting it in the memory bank.”

Park Center has begun the season with a 2-7 record, but Johnson feels the team’s hard work and dedication in practice has yet to be reflected in a game.

“We work on them in practice and there’s no reason why that when the game starts we can’t make those same throws,” Johnson said. “That desire of a range finder, running to a gap or behind a base and testing your limits, we want a guy to overrun a base when we have the baseball, asking for you to throw and get them in a run down or out.

“We had those opportunities and we let them go by, we let them off the hook. We’re going to focus on wanting those plays and expecting those plays.”

The Pirates played well during a 6-1 win over Cannon falls April 29, but they feel they failed to execute during their 7-1 loss to Armstrong May 2.

“We did not come ready to want to make plays,” Johnson said. “We left plays out on the field.

“Teams are daring us to make a play and we don’t want to make the play right now. Our talk was focused on when the opportunity presents itself to throw the baseball, throw it.”

In order to turn their season around, Johnson said he will look to intensify the team’s practices and focus them around learning how to play quality defense.

“We will be going over it again in practice with runners in situations and putting them in tough positions to want to make a play and compete,” Johnson said. “We will have our base runners be over-aggressive at times and dare our defenders to make a play and see if they can.

“At this level there comes a point where you want to or don’t, and we want players that want to.”

With eight games remaining in the regular season, Johnson will look to have his team play quality baseball as the section tournament approaches.

“We talk about not having a fear of making mistakes,” Johnson said. “There’s a huge difference between mental and there is a huge difference between physical.

“We want players who are aggressive that are asking for those plays that are begging to be made, the ones that fans in the stands wish happen at a game just to see that player make a play.”

The Pirates will play next against Champlin Park at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11, at Champlin Park High School.

Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.