The required use of wooden bats in the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) baseball season has turned the statistical landscape on its head. Batting averages are down, earned run averages are hovering just above 2.00 for the majority of teams in the league, and teams are having to be a heck of a lot more creative about the way they generate runs.
Although they don't have a big power bat in their lineup, the Red-tailed Hawks get runners in scoring position seemingly with ease. That's because they have been simply thieves on the base paths.
The Hawks have 80 stolen bases in 91 attempts this season, including 15 out of 15 for outfielder Ian Light.
Almost a month's worth of rain have prompted three- and four-game weeks, so the teams with the most speed and most pitching depth are rising to the top of the MCAL standings.
Tam is one of them.
“It’s a different game,” head coach said of the no-wooden bats rule this season, which was prompted by the head injury sustained by Marin Catholic pitcher Gunnar Sandberg in 2010. “Some would say it’s a better game.”
Terry is one of them, but he’s a little biased. After all, his club ran and pitched its way to four wins in five days late last month, immediately erasing the sting of a 1-3 league start.
Like most teams, the Hawks had to dig deep into their pitching ranks during the wall-to-wall action. The team now sits in the middle of the MCAL pack at 6-6 in the league and 9-8 overall.
In a decisive run in late March, , and Jake Dorfman shared pitching duties in a 16-3 win over San Rafael. Then and Sam Raffa pitched brilliantly in an 8-1 romp over Branson. , Larson, and followed that by playing tag-team on the mound in a 10-6 win over Redwood. Then Chris Jordan returned to pitch a complete-game five-hitter at Justin-Siena, with Tam prevailing 3-2.
“We do have pitching depth,” Terry said, noting the team ERA of 2.03. “Thirteen of the 17 guys I could put on the mound and I think they could get an out. We pitch well and we play very good defense."
Meanwhile, the Tam offense is making opposing pitchers dizzy. Not necessarily with fence-rattling hitting. Rather, with nonstop baserunning.
“We’ve really ramped up the running game,” Terry noted. “It’s a big part of what we do offensively. If we find the pitcher is slow to the plate or the catcher has trouble throwing, we’re going to take advantage. And we’re going to keep taking advantage until the other team proves it can stop it.”
Eleven different Hawks stole bases during the four-game rampage. led the way with at least one in each game and six total. Kennedy, , Andy Barnett, and both Jordans contributed at least two steals apiece.
Terry says his green-light philosophy is born of necessity.
“It’s something you have to do with the wood bat,” he explained. “We’re doing our best to get guys in scoring position without giving up outs. Make them make plays. Occasionally we get someone thrown out by 10 feet at the plate. But more often than not, it’ll be a bad throw.”
Terry has come to like wood-bat baseball.
“It’s helped the lesser teams compete,” he observed. “In the days when we were using the metal bats, a big, strong team like Marin Catholic would roll over the lesser teams 10-2, 15-2. You just don’t see scores like that very often anymore.
“It’s made games tighter. It’s put the emphasis on execution, whether you’re bunting, running … It’s more like the game the pros play.
“With the aluminum bats, I felt we were always sitting around waiting for the three-run homer or the double into the gap. Now we’re much more aggressive on the basepaths, trying to put the runners into position.”
Terry said he could see the league going back to aluminum bats next season, as it certainly makes it more difficult to market players hoping to play college ball when many of them are nursing .200 batting averages despite being excellent hitters.
TAM BASEBALL UPDATE
Recent results: Beat Novato Tuesday, 2-1; Lost to Drake and Marin Catholic 1-0 and 2-0, respectively.
Record: 6-6 in MCAL, 9-8 overall.
Coach Mike Terry’s comments: “We have no problem gettings guys on second or third. But we're missing that big hit to bring them home.”
Upcoming schedule: Tam visits San Rafael next Tuesday.