BERLIN - As Berlin baseball head coach Leo Veleas has preached since the first game of the season, pitching and defense are the most important ingredients to the Redcoats’ success this year.
Veleas, the coach at Berlin for three decades, knows better than most, and his analysis has rung true during his team’s nine-game winning streak.
After squeaking through three consecutive one-run games thanks to timely hitting and limited mistakes in the field, the Redcoats have now won their last six games by holding opponents to three runs or fewer. The three runs allowed on Tuesday against Bristol Eastern was actually the most allowed during this latest stretch of six games. Berlin hadn’t allowed more than two runs in the previous five contests.
Given Veleas’ mantra to his team before the year started, he has to be content with the nature of his team’s recent stretch of success.
“Pitching is everything,” Veleas said. “You can ask [New York Yankees manager] Aaron Boone, you can ask anybody. If you pitch and play defense, you’re in the game. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes the bats go silent and you have to scratch for a run here and there. But if you have good pitching and defense, you’re in the game. If you don’t have that, sometimes you can’t out-hit your mistakes.”
Fortunately for Veleas, the Redcoats have kept mistakes to a minimum, breezing through Tuesday’s contest without recording an error, while receiving a quality start from Mark Addamo on the mound. Between Addamo and Adam Bilinski, Berlin has a quality duo of arms to help keep the team’s current stretch going into the state tournament.
“Our pitching has been good, and that’s what we preach,” Veleas said. “Throw strikes and don’t beat yourself.”
The Redcoats’ quality defense has also helped the offense settle in and loosen its grip on the bats, knowing it doesn’t have to do too much to earn a victory. Even when Berlin fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first on Tuesday, there was no panic, because the team knew the deficit would never get much worse than that.
“It’s been big,” senior center fielder Gianni Fanelli said. “It’s a lot more relaxing at the plate. Even if we’re down one run, we’re confident we’re not going to give up much more than that because we’re confident in our pitchers. If we know that our pitchers are working and we’re getting it done on defense, it can help us on the offensive end as well.”
The offense’s confidence in the defense has certainly been warranted. As the Redcoats approach the state tournament and begin to see other teams’ best arms in do-or-die games, the pitching and defense will have to be sharp to keep the team in the game until the offense can get to tired or lesser arms in the later innings. When Berlin does get to postseason play, Veleas won’t be concerned about the pitcher on the other mound. As long as the Redcoats keep playing to the level they are now on the rubber and in the field, they will be in position to win, regardless of the opposing pitcher. Berlin has learned that much over the past nine games.
“We just have to worry about our own execution,” Veleas said. “Our own pitching and our own defense is what we worry about. All that matters is how we play.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org