As Ryan team members swatted away low tosses inside the team’s hitting shed on Monday morning, Ryan head coach Bret Warnack stepped away from his work in the back of the shed.
Assistant coach Kris Slivocka momentarily stopped making tosses as the frustrated head coach leaned underneath the black mesh and asked one of his players how he had never heard a piece of repeated batting advice.
After the brief pause, those around Warnack resumed Monday’s hitting practice, less than 36 hours before Ryan travels to Flower Mound Marcus for today’s District 5-5A opener at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve got a lot of improving to do swinging the bat,” Warnack said. “The biggest thing we’ve got to be able to do is convert information. We’re really struggling with that. We’re doing the same things over, over and over again, and it’s hard to make progress when you don’t make any adjustments.”
Ryan (2-13-2) is coming off a bit of momentum. Ryan picked up its second win of the season on Friday in a 9-5 win over Lovejoy, the team’s first victory since a season-opening win over Corsicana in the James Taylor Classic.
The offense has struggled so far in 2014. Coming into tonight’s district opener, the Raiders are only batting .197 as a team. Last year, Ryan’s lone district victory was a 1-0 win over Lewisville.
The winning run scored on a balk.
This year’s schedule for the six-team district is a bit different. Unlike previous years, Ryan will play a district team twice in a week in a home-and-home series. The Raiders will cap the regular season with one final matchup against each district opponent, with the exception of Hebron.
Warnack said the new wrinkle in the schedule doesn’t make much of a difference, and he doesn’t have a preference either way. But Warnack noted that the time to figure things out has elapsed as nondistrict play is over and 5-5A play begins.
Senior Sam Watson will be one of the pitchers the Raiders will depend on this season in order to stay in ballgames. Watson said up to this point, this season feels a lot better than 2013.
“We’re working a lot harder than we were,” Watson said. “There’s more want and will to be out here this year. I feel that we have it and the drive to be better.”
Senior second baseman Cody McBee echoed his head coach’s sentiments about concentrating on the small things in order to find success during the next 14 games.
“We just gotta focus more and just work on the little things, get the ball in play more,” McBee said. “Just play harder.”
Warnack said one of the main things his team will need to work on is putting the ball in play more and putting pressure on the defense. In 376 at-bats this season, the Raiders have struck out 106 times.
The opponents Ryan will face in district play won’t make things much easier on the offense. Two of Flower Mound’s pitchers, Seth Jordan and BJ Myers, will join Flower Mound Marcus pitcher Conner Dotson at West Virginia next season.
“The type of pitching we’re going to see from Marcus and Flower Mound is tops in the state, for sure,” Warnack said. “Hebron, Lewisville and Coppell have all been playing well. We have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure.”
The Ryan skipper said if the team can find a way to start swinging the bats effectively, the team will not be far off from making daily adjustments and improvements, one of the team’s goals during the next few weeks.
If and when the offense gets going, it will pay multiple dividends for the Raiders.
“Mentally, it’s going to help us a ton,” Watson said. “I think that’s the biggest aspect we gotta get over the hump about. Once that comes around, I think all the wheels will start turning together and start coming along.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
DISTRICT 5-5A CAPSULES
Head coach: Kendall Clark (14th year as head coach, third at Coppell)
Current record: 11-4-1
2013 record: 23-9-1 (10-5, t-second in district)
Key players: RHP Drew Hanson, SS Cal Hernandez, RHP Jensen Elliott
Flower Mound Jaguars
Head coach: Danny Wallace (21st year as head coach, second at Flower Mound)
Current record: 12-4
2013 record: 31-5 (15-0, first in district)
Key players: LHP Seth Jordan, RHP Kyle Johnston, RHP BJ Myers, CF Connor Wanhanen
Flower Mound Marcus Marauders
Head coach: Jeff Sherman (second season at Marcus)
Current record: 15-2
2013 record: 33-8 (10-5, t-second in district)
Key players: RHP Conner Dotson, C Jared Bogosian, OF Patrick Mixon
Head coach: Steve Stone (24th year as head coach, 15th at Hebron)
Current record: 12-5-1
2013 record: 17-17 (5-10, fourth in district)
Key players: RHP/SS Travis Stone, RHP/IF Drew Roth, IF/RHP Michael Neustifter, RHP/OF Zach DeLoach
Head coach: Stephen Campbell (40th year as head coach, all at Lewisville)
Current record: 12-5
2013 record: 14-16 (4-11, fifth in district)
Key players: 1B/P Jason Foley, P/OF Matthew Nemecek, C Cameron Champagne, SS/P Cody Doucet
Head coach: Bret Warnack (15th year as head coach, all at Ryan)
Current record: 2-13-2
2013 record: 7-23 (1-14, sixth in district)
Key players: P Sam Watson, P/OF Ryan Burks, P/1B Blake Grellhesl, P/3B Grant Gohlke