The road often hardens teams for the stretch run in the regular season. The Mid-Valley Rockets are going to find out how tough they are with their next upcoming stretch of games away from Memorial Stadium.
While the Rockets will be tested, infielder John Gederos feels that the team is already better equipped to face the challenges of the road than they were a season ago.
“This year’s team is a lot more competitive,” Gederos said. “Last year we were a little more lackadaisical. I feel like this stretch we have this year is going to be good. We’re going to be in it the whole time.”
For a Legion baseball veteran like Gederos, long road trips like this are a benefit to the team's confidence.
"I feel like it teaches us that we can do anything. We just have to keep fighting no matter what field it is. We can beat whoever we want, we just have to go out and do it.”
Coach Troy Babbitt says it will also give him an opportunity to get playing time for players who haven’t been on the field as much as he would like them to be.
“The tournaments give us a chance to evaluate guys deeper than we have in a game situation,” Babbitt said.
The added benefit to getting players work who wouldn’t otherwise get as much playing time is that players who need rest in the middle of the season can get it without the fear of dropping important Area III games.
The three tournaments give the Rockets and opportunity to see competition that they haven’t faced before. Specifically, the Rockets will be going up against a team from Australia in the Roseburg tournament hosted by Doc Stewart’s.
“I’m pretty excited about that, it’s going to be fun,” Gederos said.
Without the pressure of league games on the players’ minds, they can spend the next several road games working on the small things in the game that don’t often get work in live game situations.
“You worry about your approach in your at-bats or your fielding rather than wins and losses,” outfielder and pitcher Evan Cyrus said. “This is where you can mess around with different bunt situations, things you’ve been struggling with and see what works.”
Mid-Valley currently sits second in Area III with a 5-3 record behind only Gerding Builders who have a 5-1 league record.
The two teams will close the regular season with a three-game series but before that the Rockets will get a preview of the Marketmen at the Roseburg tournament.
While Babbitt said it helps Gerding Builders as much as it helps the Rockets, the players are looking forward to getting on the field against a familiar opponent prior to their league meetings.
“It helps us out later on when we see them again,” Gederos said. “We’ll know what their tendencies are, what they’re going to do and how it’s going to play out.”
Last season the Rockets struggled out of the gate but have gotten off to a good start this year. Babbitt believes that his team has what it takes to stay near the top of the standings and not need a late-season rally to earn a postseason berth.
“I think we’re sitting in a position to stay on top of this thing as we head into mid-July,” Babbitt said.
Following the Roseburg tournament, the Rockets will be home for one game against Doc Stewarts on Monday.