NEWINGTON - During the Newington baseball teamâ€™s game against Platt on Friday, head coach Ben Alaimo greeted his team in front of the dugout as they jogged in from the field and delivered a simple message.
â€śWe have to tighten up on defense,â€ť Alaimo instructed as the Indians prepared to hit.
This message would be delivered two more times during the game, equaling the amount of errors Newington committed in the 7-3 loss, with three of those runs being unearned.
Alaimo did his best to continuously drive the message home because he knew its importance. The Indians havenâ€™t lost many games this season, sitting at 11-4, but when they have, the defense has been to blame.
â€śOur four losses this year have been defensive miscues,â€ť Alaimo said. â€śOur losses have been laden with defensive miscues. When we play good defense we win, and when we donâ€™t we havenâ€™t.â€ť
Friday was no exception, as two early throwing errors put Newington in a quick four-run hole, and another crucial throwing error turned a two-run deficit into four later in the contest.
The Indians have prided themselves on avoiding such miscues so far this season, and for the most part, they have been successful. But thereâ€™s no denying that when the scarce error is committed, more seem to immediately follow.
â€śIt feels like itâ€™s contagious,â€ť junior John Pyne said. â€śWhen one happens, another one does. When the first one happens, we just have to make the next play.â€ť
Avoiding the initial mistake has been critical for Newington so far this season, often determining the difference between a flawless performance and a painful implosion.
Earlier this year, when the Indians were rattling off five wins in a row, the team held opponents scoreless in 27 of 28 innings through four games of that stretch. Heading into Fridayâ€™s matchup with Platt, Newington had won four of five, having recorded shutouts in all four wins.
The few losses in between were not so effective.
The first loss of the season saw two unearned runs put a game out of reach against Bristol Central, and more defensive woes plagued the teamâ€™s performance against Wethersfield two weeks ago. The mistakes are scattered, but so are the Indians once they make one.
â€śI feel like we just need to change the momentum,â€ť catcher Gunnar Johnson said. â€śWe just have to shake those off and continue to play the game.â€ť
The Indians have played sound baseball for the majority of the season, but even a quick jarring of confidence by one error can turn into a disastrous inning, which can derail a season in a do-or-die game once the state tournament arrives. For Newington, the best way to avoid such pressure is to take the pressure off of itself.
â€śI think we just need to relax and play loose,â€ť Pyne said. â€śWhen we play loose, we donâ€™t make those errors.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org