DirtDogs take a Bite out of Early Spring Classic

Early spring is an unpredictable time in New England. First, the 14U NEB DirtDogs were cheated out of a valuable outdoor practice this past Friday thanks to an April Fool’s nor’easter which dropped 6″ of snow on home field. Then, Matt L. came down with strep throat and missed the Saturday games while getting his antibiotics on. For the second year running, the Early Spring Classic proved to be more about endurance baseball than anything else. But hey, at least the bats, balls and gloves are finally back from winter break!

The weather for both Saturday and Sunday in the Providence area was cold and windy, with biting gusts that made pitch control an extra challenge. Fortunately, the April Fool’s snow that blanketed home turf didn’t quite make it that far south.

Saturday Split vs. Legends and Fire

The 14U DirtDogs split their pair of Saturday games in Providence with a 10-0 loss to the Legends followed by a 9-5 win against the Franklin Fire. Pitching for NEB in Game #1 were Mitch P., Scott C. and Dan B. Pitching for NEB in Game #2 were Brad S. who went 5 innings for the Win, relieved by Matt F. and JT.

Sunday loss to Bears

On Sunday, the DirtDogs played stiff competition against the champion RI Bears (Brown University affiliate) and took another 11-1 loss. Again, the weather was inhospitable with strong wind gusts and temperature in the 40’s. Matt L. started on the mound and went 2 innings with 4 strikeouts while allowing only 4 hits and one walk. Matt F. pitched in relief and struck out 1 batter in the 3rd inning while relying on improving NEB defense. In the 4th inning, Alex C. took the hill before the game was finished by an early Bears walk-off homerun. The 10-run rule was in effect, ensuring the game did not run over the alloted time. On offense, the heavy hitter was Chris W. who kept the DirtDogs alive with a clutch 4th inning homerun inside the park. Mitch P., Scott C. and Andy B. also stroked base hits while both JT and Alex C. collected walks.

Overall, the games were a good tune-up opportunity for the DirtDogs to play together on the field for the first time since the roster was formed last October. While these games do not impact any divisional standings, they served to provide valuable feedback for parts of the defensive game that require short-term improvement to cut down on costly errors.

Sunday’s game was also great news for Matt L., who successfully pitched more than one inning for the first time in 10 months since his shoulder injury last May. Not only was this Matt’s first outing as a pitcher on the 60’/90′ diamond, it also showed his ability to collect K’s against talented AAU Diamond division and High School players.

The successful rehab regimen along with Matt’s continuing strength and conditioning work resulted in Matt finishing his outing at 56 game pitches with no significant arm or shoulder discomfort. The Tuff Cuff program and Cressey Performance are great stuff!

Stay tuned for next week’s Home Opener double-header games vs. Blackstone Valley and the NE Diamond Dawgs on April 9-10 at Pirone Park.