Diamond Dog Regional Notebook: Friday Edition
BUT WHO COUNTS? WE ARE: It’s the annual ritual – at least, the years the NCAA Circus is in town anyway – of Mississippi state media. Take one or all visiting teams; count their total participation in home games for the entire regular season; and see how that number compares to a big game at Polk-Dement Stadium. A pride bordering on arrogance? Well of course, but also well deserved over the years by devoted Diamond Dog fans.
To be fair, 2021 isn’t quite fair for such comparisons. Campus or local policies have reduced attendance at all varsity baseball venues, including the state of Mississippi. It is one thing to lose several thousand at a game; another will be capped at 300 or less, just like Samford this season. The Joe Lee Griffin Field has an official capacity of 1,000 people.
So the 1,787 “home” spectators on the player roster weren’t exactly home, but a few miles south at the Hoover Met. It must have stung the Tigers a lot later when they missed an SEC tournament comeback.
Otherwise, for the 25 full campus games this spring, Samford reports that 5,494 have come to the stadium. This was of course entirely surpassed by the 8,794 announced in Friday’s regional game. While nowhere near a regional record, and not as big as a high-stakes SEC weekend or Super Saturday, that was a big reason guys love Will bednar became dogs in the first place.
“There is no place like Dudy Noble,” Bednar said. “Growing up, I never played in front of a big crowd.” For their part, the Samford players are not in college.
Coach Casey dunn thought that a nice participation in the afternoon had an impact. “But not on our players. It was a great environment, a great crowd and something our guys enjoyed more than we were affected. “
Seven thousand or so is a horde compared to those who have seen or haven’t seen Campbell playing baseball this tight spring. Judging by most of the reported attendances ending in a 0, there were plenty of estimates in ’21. With a listed capacity of 1,500 at Joe Perry Stadium, the biggest crowds, if that is the word, were for a home series final in May with High Point: 203 and 203. Two games weren’t even registered. .
We are therefore going to evaluate some of them as well and give these contests the same 120 from the three previous games; and bring the total gate for the entire season to 3,099. Which is actually a little less than the 3,150 enrolled in college.
MORNING GLORY: This is Coach Chris Lemonis’ second round with regional play here. 2019 has been a great time but also so intense that the first-year skipper said he had hardly had the chance to savor the experience. Then 2020 was cut short before the SEC season for much less tournament time.
So when Lemonis admitted he was up at 5:00 this morning; and in his office outside the stadium at 6:25 am; well, who could fault him for finding the time to soak up all of this before anyone but the facilities crew and parking lot attendants even budged?
“I haven’t been so excited for a game for a long time,” Lemonis said. This, from a guy who has been to Omaha. This is how much Lemonis wanted to get the regional feeling in the state of Mississippi in its entirety.
And not just for himself. “And I told our kids that’s where our program belongs. I challenged our children to have fun and enjoy this time.
KK KLASS RECORDING WATCH: With eight strikeouts for his daily duty, Will bednar has 109 Ks for his first season. His sophomore freshman season, of course, and the NCAA’s granting of an extra year will ripple through the record books in all sports for years to come. But 2021 still counts as a “freshman” season and allows Bednar to pursue a rookie record.
His current strikeout count caught up to great state Eric Dubose’s tally of 109 strikeouts in 1995 for a freshman. Dubose was of course a real beginner. Bednar came in with 101 (math) and with his late inning Dicharia in fifth he surpassed JT Ginn’s 105 strikeouts in 2019 as a rookie.
Bednar got his 109th with a strikeout Max Pinto when he came back for the 7th inning. “After the sixth Coach Fox (Scott Foxhall) asked me if I was ready to go, and I said yes. It wasn’t an entirely straightforward decision with a 6-3 lead at the time, even though the last two in Samford’s order came up. So in this case yes, the player had his say …
… And Bednar said yes. “Taking the ball from him was huge,” Lemonis said. Bednar needed 117 shots to register his seven innings. It was only five short of Samford thrown in eight rounds.
If the state of Mississippi qualifies for the super regional round, Bednar can claim the class record and continue working for a season in the top ten overall. That requires 115 strikeouts, which would equalize both Jeff Brantley 1984 and Dakota hudson 2016.
SHORT GAME, LONG VERSION: Chris Lemon must be a modern baseball fan favorite in the way it eschews the traditional short game. Oh, he’ll have Bulldogs decay in some obvious situations. And if the situation looks promising, he will give the go-ahead for an attempt to drag or push to reach the base. Second baseman Scotty Dubrule tried it in the third inning, starting, and placed it straight to first base for an easy tag.
Still, Samford had to at least think of a sacrifice when down from seventh place, the scoreboard 6-3, Tanner Allen made his way and Kamren James has been planted. It was a manual situation to move the men. Instead, Luke Hancock would walk away and part ways with Alllen.
A round earlier now that has shown what Lemonis’ ideal of a “short game” is. When Brad Cumbest doubled in front, he was not sacrificed either. Instead, and after a change in pitch that brought another Samford Lefhander up the hill, Kellum clark took a good cut and roped a player to right field. He was caught, but Cumbest easily took third place. Another balloon later, by Lane Forsyth on the right as well, and Cumbest came home for a very key run at the time.
Call it a 280 foot “bunt” by Clark?
POWER GAMES: Samford came to the stadium with a legitimate reputation for power, regardless of the Southern Conference and not the Southeast. When the first pitch of the tournament left the court, not by much but clearing the right field just enough… in the zone.
“But I thought it was the best pitch I could have made. He did a good job smoking the ball. Bednar was also caught deep in the fifth, another solo hit.
It was the key, however. Coach Casey dunn admitted as much. “I thought our guys had big swings. But that only gives you four points on those five swings because there was nothing in front. When Bulldog locations were marked there were rarely runners in a corner.
Samford’s best chance to change the day came after that second shot. Bednar couldn’t find a running goal with an out, followed by a double and a sacrificial steal to close the gap to 5-3. A walk and a steal had two SU Dogs in the scoring points with a big (6-1, 235 and looking a lot beefier than the official roster) Sonny DiChiara. The team’s slugging leader with 15 home runs, he was 0-of3 at the time and probably due.
When DiChiara took a huge 1-0 cut to a letter fastball and missed the breeze was felt around the stadium. But he had another swing, and Bednar didn’t hesitate to come back to 1-2 with the heat. The 95 mph fastball passed safely through the SAM on DiChiara’s jersey and the bat waved underneath.
“I just attacked high,” Bednar said. “I had a good shot and he swung and missed.” Fortunately, the ball would have threatened anyone in the Lofts if contact had been made.
Despite all the shock at the start, it also must have stung Samford when defensive errors on playable balls led to the tied first set; and other execution failures on the field let the Dogs take the lead in the second. It didn’t diminish the way State put the balls into play instead of trying to win it all in one fell swoop.
“I think we did a great job with situational strikes, runner movement, runner integration,” Lemonis said. “We didn’t get too big. Our approach was to stay on the balls and get them to play. What other dogs haven’t. They might leave the court a few times, but as Lemonis recalled “The solo home run doesn’t beat you,” Lemonis said.
Although he agreed there was a tinge of sour grapes from Dunn when he commented: “I thought we hit a lot of balls harder than them, although they scored more points. “
Well, as someone used to say and still does on the radio… it’s baseball.
TANNER ALLEN LOOK AT THE MAP: The SEC MVP had a calm day by his high standards. To be sure, 2 of 4 was a bit better than his season average of .384, or the .411 he beat in 30 SEC regular season games to lead the league by 21 points.
With 85 hits to date, he’s eleven a season’s top ten saves. Make it another top-ten season as its 96 in 2019 were tied Brent Rooker for 10. He now has 264 career hits, which is just four behind the three-year total by a pretty good name hitting Palmeiro for 10th place.
And those two singles today put Allen above the career average of .333. He is now 264 of 790 in 197 career games. But it’s also getting closer to the top ten seasons in rating category. His 171 RBIs are eight behind John Mitchell’s 179 total in 1984-87.