By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
17U Oshawa Legionaires coach Ken Babcock thinks it’s just about time for his team to go on a run.
Sporting a 6-7 record as of press time, the Legionaires sit tied for fourth in a crowded Elite Baseball League of Ontario (EBLO) Premier division.
In Babcock’s eyes, his team is bound to start an upward turn.
“We expect to put together a win streak,” Babcock says, noting that he isn’t too concerned with the team’s current record.
“By the end of the year, I believe our record will better reflect [the quality of the team],” he says.
Babcock is pleased with his team’s performance so far, as they are competing against mostly 18U teams within the division.
“We want to play against those good teams,” he says.
For the team to improve its record, Babcock says it comes down to one thing – consistency.
“We are competitive and we can play with every team. We are really close,” he says.
The shining star for the 17U Legionaires has been the defence, Babcock says.
“Our outfield is very quick. Not a lot of balls hit the ground,” he says. “Our catching is outstanding as well.”
Going back to the need for consistency, Babcock says the team’s pitching has had some “very good and very poor outings”.
He says his pitching staff needs to show “more command” and cut down the number of walks drawn by opposing hitters.
On the offensive side, Babcock says the team’s batting has recently started to heat up, as the entire squad is hitting at around a .400 clip the past few weeks.
“Our hitting has really become a highlight after we were a little light at the plate early in the season,’ Babcock says.
Babcock says the team’s performance at a recent tournament in Buffalo was a great confidence builder.
The team played five games, finishing with a 2-2-1 record, with their two wins coming by a combined score of 24-1.
The team was close to advancing to the playoff round but surrendered nine runs in one inning in their final game. Despite that, Babcock says the trip was a great experience both on and off the field.
A number of players attended a recruiting showcase over the weekend, which according to Babcock, gave the players an opportunity to show off their skills first hand to college recruiters.
“It’s one thing for me to tell a recruiter ‘this pitcher throws 82 mph’, but when you go into the recruitment showcase, it validates the player’s skills,” he says.
One personal achievement in the tournament came for Mitchell Haywood, who slugged a grand slam, his first home run ever.
“In Canada, a lot of the time you don’t play [on a field] with fences, so it’s difficult to hit home runs,” Babcock says. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
After a rain-plagued first month of the season, the Legionaires are facing a packed schedule, currently in the midst of playing nine games over a span of two-and-half-weeks
Oshawa will be on the road at Ajax this Thursday (July 27), Etobicoke on Friday and then visit West Toronto for a doubleheader on Saturday.
Later in August, the team will travel to Windsor to play exhibition games against Sarnia and Tecumseh, two teams that Babcock says rank among the best in Ontario.
Finally on Aug. 18 to 20, the EBLO Premier Division 17U League Finals take place at Kinsmen Stadium in Oshawa with the Legionaires facing off against Brampton, Etobicoke and Vaughan.
Babcock says even with the tight schedule lately, there are still more games to be rescheduled.
“There’s a lot of games we need to get in before the Ontario playdowns,” he says.