Generals pull into tie for first in TCL
Generals 5,Brazos Valley 3
WP-Payne (2-2), L-Hilliard (3-2), S-Browder (1)
The accolades have been started to roll in for the Victoria Generals.
Two players were named player of the week for the Texas Collegiate League recently. It was also announced that the team is ranked 30th by Perfect Game CrossChecker in the country among collegiate summer-league teams.
And with one week left before the all-star break, the Generals are in a three-team race with Brazos Valley and East Texas for a first half championship.
But that isn't the ultimate goal, said Generals coach Chris Clemons.
"It's always important to win championships, I think that's what character is built on," he said. "But my main goal is I want to have the overall best record for the whole year.""
"I think that shows how tough our guys are, being able to do a full 56-game schedule and stay consistent throughout."
Clemons said the Generals, who are near the top in both hitting and pitching, are still working on situational hitting.
"We need to be more consistent offensively," he said. "Our pitching has been outstanding, there hasn't been a game where we've been blown out. It's just our offense needs to pick it up and get the big hit.""
"We're getting hits with no body on base and two outs, it's just our guys need to learn to get that two-out hit with a guy on second base."
And Sunday's game was a good start. Well, at least for the first inning.
In a battle of the TCL's top two teams, Victoria victimized Brazos Valley starter Mike Hilliard early, jumping out to a five-run lead to beat the Bombers 5-3, moving into a tie with the Bombers with a week left.
The Generals first five batters of the game all reached base and scored, as Victoria chased Hilliard after nine batters and two-thirds of an inning.
The first inning was capped by Conner Mach's three-run home run, which was as much a product of good hitting as it was Hilliard's wild pitching.
"I wanted to get a fastball early in the count," Mach said. "I had runners in scoring position so I was just trying to hit the ball hard anywhere.
"I got a good pitch to hit, barreled it up. It was a nice hit and it went out."
Reliever Alec Mills settled down the Generals, pitching a solid 6 innings for the Bombers, holding Victoria to no runs and five hits.
And that troubled Clemons.
"They kind of shut it down, and that's not what we're about," he said. "We're going to be competitive for nine innings, I'm going to put nine guys out there that are going to compete. The last eight innings were disappointing."
Generals starter Blake Payne pitched seven solid innings, striking out four and allowing three runs on seven hits before yielding to Kolt Browder, who pitched two innings and struck out four to pick up his first save.
"He's been pitching his butt off this season and we haven't helped him out too much this season," Mach said. "It's always good to get some runs up early and help your pitcher relax a little bit."
Despite his strong performance, Payne said he felt like it could have been better.
"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff, but I felt like I competed," he said.
Clemons said Payne is a consistent pitcher who always competes and always throws strikes, and that has helped to make him successful this season.
"He gave us seven good innings," he said. "That's what you get from Blake Payne. ... He's going to give up a few hits now and then, but that's not a problem. He's very aggressive and he's right after them."