As George Carlin explained in his “Football vs. Baseball” routine, part of the American Pastime’s beauty is it own semantics.
In baseball, you don’t commit penalties or fouls. You make errors. One doesn’t play on a court, field or pitch. You play on a diamond.There’s not even recreation baseball. It’s “semi-pro.”
In high school, if a team loses decisively enough, they don’t get routed. They get “mercy ruled” in the sensitive vernacular of the NCHSAA, which is invoked to end games immediately when a team falls behind by 10 runs after five innings.
The Riverside Pirates are used to mercy- rule (or “slaughter rule”) wins. They’ve had 10 of them the past two years since Doug Simmons became head coach.
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What they aren’t used to is getting ruled in their season opener.
That’s what happened when Panther Creek stopped the Pirates 12-1 in just five innings last Monday, which led to another term not associated exclusively with baseball: culture shock.
“Their 1-6 in their lineup is as good as anyone,” said Simmons. “They have good players.”
The Pirates have won the last two PAC-6 4A Conference championships, going 10-0 in league play in 2014.
However, after a shocking opening round loss in the state 4-A playoffs to Heritage, Riverside lost six starters to graduation, including its entire starting rotation of Will Hibbard, Kory Behenna and Blake Morgan, who combined for 17 victories last season.
Simmons admits the pitching depth for the 2015 Pirates isn’t where he wants it to be, but he isn’t using it as an excuse.
The day after the Panther Creek loss, the Pirates fought valiantly against traditional 3A power Orange before falling 6-4. Riverside had the tying run at second before a pop-up to first baseman Bryce Wilson ended the game.
After a rocky first inning, where he gave up a 3-run homer to Orange’s Austin Sykes, Pirates starter Landon Threadgill tossed three shutout frames, yielding just one hit.
“If we played Orange later in the year, I think Landon would have pitched later in the game,” said Simmons. “He has a chance to become the top starter for us.”
Simmons says Jonathan Rhew, Cody Goss (who suffered a broken hand during the summer), and Kimball Toone will also handle pitching duties.
Riverside (1-2) concluded the first week of the season with an 8-6 victory over Jordan-Matthews.
“We had more players than they did,” said Simmons. “I thought the pitcher for Jordan-Matthews was as good as any pitcher we’ve faced this year. We were fortunate they made some mistakes in the field.”
Despite a slow start, the Pirates still have the same goal as in Simmons’s first two years – win the PAC-6.
“Our goals don’t change,” said Simmons.
“We have a lot of tradition here. I don’t have the pitching I’ve had in the past right now where I can put a guy on the mound and win a 2-1 game. But I fell like I have five guys I can rely on to pitch right now.”