Southside Dirtbags turn an important corner

SLABA Tournament fast approaching

By Robert Chalupny

Southside Dirtbags head coach Mike St. Cin believes his squad has turned an important corner to right the ship with just a handful of regular-season games left before the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association Tournament begins.

After losing their third tournament of the season, the Dirtbags bounced back with two consecutive wins, including an 11-1 win over the Gamers Friday, and are now 2-0 in the Midwest Freedom Classic Tournament. The Dirtbags are set to face the St. Louis Recruits today — Saturday.

The Dirtbags posted a 1-3 record last week in the Southeast Missouri State University Tournament, and went 1-1 in league play this week to improve to an 8-4 league record for the season.

That important corner the team turned was its focus and that came in Wednesday’s 7-6 loss to the Capitals, according to St. Cin.

“As far as our focus and our overall approach, it was our best game of the year as far as everyone being in tune ready to go, ready to play,” he said. “It shouldn’t have taken us this long to have that kind of attitude and focus … It shouldn’t take halfway into the summer for us to get there.

“Whereas had we gotten to that point last week, we probably don’t lose to those guys (Wednesday), but because we haven’t gotten there, because we haven’t been there in regards to just concentration and paying attention to the actual game at hand, we lost (Wednesday). So (Wednesday) hurt. It hurt a lot, actually, because the boys for whatever reason finally woke up (Wednesday).”

St. Cin characterized the game as a hard-fought, back-and-forth game that just slipped away from the Dirtbags late when they gave up a run in the sixth inning to allow the Capitals to tie the game. The Dirtbags posted another run in the seventh inning, but gave up two runs in the bottom of the seventh to give the Capitals the win.

“They are a competitive team,” the Dirtbags coach said of the Capitals. “They are a younger team, but they are competitive and they have the ability … They can be and they will be really good. Obviously, they were good enough to beat us.

“It was just one of those games we just didn’t win. Everything was there. The piching was OK. The hitting was better. The only thing that failed us (Wednesday) was our defense.”

The Dirtbags kicked off their final tournament of the season — the Midwest Freedom Classic — with a 4-1 win Thursday over the Maryville Heat.

The Dirtbags need to address their hitting mechanics for the remainder of the season and the SLABA Tournament, according to St. Cin.

“We need to work on our approach at the plate … Just going up there hoping for contact and swinging for contact isn’t good enough,” he said. “We need to have an approach. We need to be looking for it.

“It comes down to three things for me: Get your pitch to hit. Put a good swing on it and hit it hard and, obviously, we can build on our approach from there, but that’s where it starts.

“Everyone wants to just yank the ball. I mean, it’s high school baseball. Nobody comes inside and if they do, it’s a mistake or the pitcher is just really good, but it’s rare. It’s rare that you have a pitcher at this level that wants to throw the ball inside. Everyone works away.”

Fans and players can be optimistic as the season is rapidly coming to a close that the team has grown significantly and has a good shot at doing some damage in the SLABA Tournament.

“We’ll get there if we keep bringing the same attitude like we did (Wednesday) every day from here on out. We will be a much better ball team come tournament time, and it’s up to them. They know what they have to do,” St. Cin said of his players.