Everyone has to start somewhere
Stars and Stripes March 18, 2023
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Teams making their season debuts are rarely finished products. It takes a while for players to hone their skills, learn to work together and develop winning habits.
Given the lack of experience that many of those putting on baseball and softball uniforms Saturday had in their respective sports, that’s especially true for Aviano and Sigonella this season.
“We definitely identified very specific areas that needed to be improved,” said Sigonella softball coach Kendra La Rocca after watching her team sweep the Saints 20-2 and 11-10.
Asked what areas those were, La Rocca began a list with her fingers and then stopped with a sheepish smile.
One area of focus will be improving as the season goes along. Unlike her three colleagues, La Rocca didn’t think that happened during the course of the day Saturday.
“It [the level of play] went down, I think,” she said. “I’m not sure why.”
Part of that might have been that the Saints couldn’t have been much worse than in the opener and did show some definite improvement themselves in the second game.
“We made some adjustments at the plate and in other areas,” Aviano coach Jordan Gurganus said. “I think we actually hit the ball better than they did in the second game and it just didn’t go in our favor.”
Aviano did lead 10-1 after scoring three times in the third. But the Jaguars scored 10 times in the next two innings for the victory. Still, that was much closer than the first game when Sigonella scored 19 times in the first two innings via a series of walks, hit batters, passed balls and wild pitches.
A stone’s throw away on the baseball field, the Saints took advantage of some Jaguars miscues to rally in the first game and win 8-7. Aviano scored four times in the bottom of the fourth to push across the go-ahead run as the game’s time limit was reached. Sigonella came back in the second game with six runs in each the second and fifth innings for the victory.
Both coaches said they left with positives.
“As coaches, we wanted to see if the players had been listening to us with all we’ve teaching them for two weeks,” Sigonella coach Chad Davis Sr. said. “And they really did, every one of them. We only have two starters from last year. One freshman and one sophomore had never thrown a baseball and they’re in the starting lineup. So, yeah, I think, winning a game and losing another where we were competitive is a pretty good start.”
Aviano coach Martin Vazquez said his goal at this point of the season is to give all of his players a chance to show they deserve playing time. By the time the two teams meet up again in a three-team weekend also featuring Ansbach in three weeks, he said he’ll have a better idea of who will be playing where. And whether or not the Saints will be able to play their way back to the Division II title game they reached a year ago.