Fairfield varsity baseball improved to 8-2 Thursday night with a Class 3A non-conference doubleheader sweep of visiting Knoxville thanks in part to a 21-2 run differential powered by four senior smashed home runs.
“We’ve been working on different things and each kid has something that he’s working on,” explained the teams’ hitting guru, Coach Jeff Eeling. “To see them go out on the field and, for instance, Kosta has been dropping his hands and I’ve been telling him to get his hands on top of the ball and then he drives three out of the park. Jackson Weaton’s job is to swing the bat hard and when he does that he puts a good swing on it. We challenge each kid to work on their thing in the game, because it’s easy to do during batting practice, but all of a sudden when you get between the lines, you forget those things. Just seeing them make those adjustments is paying off.”
Statline of the night/year
Mr. Kosta Papazoglou played like a man deserving a title, going 7-7 at the plate over the two games with three home runs, seven RBI, six runs scored and two stolen bases.
“I like to run, so I try to get on base and let our big hitters like [Austin] Simpson and T[ristin Waugh] do their work because they can smash the ball,” explained K-Pap.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said the senior catcher/anywhere coach puts him. “Eels and I worked on my swing a little bit. We worked on my hand placement and how big my step is because they were too low and I was popping out or grounding out a lot. I’m also not trying to kill the ball anymore, I’m just trying to put it in play and that’s been helping.”
It helped him hit three home runs Thursday night, two in game one and a solo shot in game two.
“The first one was high and inside, the second one was an 0-1 count and he hung a curveball and I hit it down the line. The third one elevated a bit inside and I just took it deep,” simplified the future college baseball player.
Along with Papazoglou’s pair of dingers, classmate Austin Simpson went deep and the Trojans held a 10-0 lead after two innings versus Knoxville.
“I got his timing down during my warm ups in the [on-deck] circle,” said Simpson of his homer. “When he threw the ball I knew exactly what was coming. I knew I needed to wait on it, because it was a hanging curveball and I knew it was sitting over the middle of the plate, hung up a little bit. It curved inside just a tad and I just pulled it down the line.”
The Panthers responded to an 11th run in the third by the Trojans with their lone score of the contest before Fairfield sent the teams to the concession stands with the final five runs leaving the score 16-1 after four mercy-rule shortened innings of play.
Senior Cole Engle threw 58 pitches over four innings and allowed one run on three hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
“I was just trying to pound the zone with my fastball and curveball and then throw in the slider low and keep them off their toes,” said Engle who was excited to have the mass amount of run support.
“You just feel more confident and there’s more you can do with it because if you give up a base hit you have a lot of runs up there to support you.”
“Knoxville probably didn’t throw their best pitchers at us,” said Eeling afterwards. “That’s something a high school team has to get over. That you’ve got to keep the accelerator going when you can. We scored 16 runs in the first game and we assume their just going to roll over and play dead and they didn’t do that, which is a credit to them and Coach Miller over at Knoxville. Our kids’ need to learn to play hard all of the time and they did that and I’m proud of them.”
After trailing 1-0 after the road half of the first, Papazoglou got on base and stole third and scored on the errant throw to tie it at 1-1.
Knoxville then loaded the bases in the top of the second but the Trojans escaped and going into the bottom of the third, Coach Allison told his team to stop letting their opponents stay in the game.
Papazoglou responded with another single, a stolen base and the go-ahead score on a Simpson double. 2-1 Fairfield.
Kosta then popped his third homer of the day to make it 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth and two more runs made it the 5-1 final.
“The first one I thought I was going to pop out but the other two I knew right away,” said Papazoglou of his three round-trippers.
“I think what we did today is a big step for gaining toward what we need for Monday,” explained Coach Allison of his team’s doubleheader versus Washington. “Just believing in each other and trusting the process that we have in place and putting in our best swings and letting things happen. I was happy with our defense which has been playing well and if we can execute those things on Monday, I think things will go OK. Tonight is probably the best we’ve seen so far of that balance [between fun and focused.] We were hitting the ball well but we were still loose about it.”
Fairfield will host 10-2 Washington who has a 7-3 record in the Southeast Conference.