BERLIN - Gary Van Etten admits he has the easy job.
Every game, the Berlin Legion Baseball head coach will signal to catcher Ryan Hyde the pitches he wants thrown and then Van Etten just has to sit back and wait. He knows his pitchers will take of everything from there.
“If they throw it where I tell them to, most of the time they’ll get the out,” Van Etten said. “All of the credit goes to the pitchers, that and the defense. Pitching and defense have always been our strong suits.”
Over the course of the summer, Berlin has been one of the most difficult teams to score on.
In 19 games this season, Berlin has given up just 37 runs, an average of just 1.95 per game. The 37 runs given up are the seventh best in the entire state, excluding Zone 3, which doesn’t have the stats available online. And of the team’s 14 wins, five have been shutouts and seven have been by only allowing one run.
“We just have a lot of guys on our staff that love to come out and compete,” Hyde said.
Matt Vernacatola has stepped up as one of the aces of the squad. He had one of his best games of the season Thursday, a 4-3 Berlin win over RCP, which was second place in the zone heading into the game.
“He’s at the top of his game right now,” Hyde said of Vernacatola. “He has been for most of the summer. It’s always fun coming to the field knowing that Matt Vernacatola is on the mound. It makes my job very easy and I just let him keep rolling.”
Vernacatola believes the entire staff, not only him, deserves credit, especially for the extra work they put in that isn’t seen on game days.
“We throw a lot of bullpens,” he said. “We throw a lot of flat grounds. So we are consistent at throwing strikes.”
While Hyde is the constant, in that he works with the entire pitching staff, he quickly deflected any credit for the staff’s success.
“We have a lot of guys who can throw the ball really well,” Hyde said. “I’m just thrilled that I get a chance to catch them and help them do their job.”
Despite the focus on pitching and defense, Vernacatola, meanwhile, wanted to highlight the team’s support on offense, which consistently finds ways to grind out enough run support to help the pitching staff, especially in the RCP game, where the offense battled back after falling behind late.
“It’s an amazing feeling because this game was for first place,” Vernacatola said. “I needed them and they picked me up.”
Berlin has already clinched a postseason berth and has just two games remaining on their regular season schedule. If the team wins either of those two games, it will secure the top spot in Zone 7.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org