A season of inconsistency ended with a 17-17 overall record for the Perry baseball team with an 8-0 loss to ADM in the first round of the playoffs.
Veteran Bluejay skipper Mike Long said he was perplexed by the way his squad performed.
"I thought we would be better this year," he said. "We gained more experience and improved in some areas but in others we did not play up to our capability. A perfect example of that is not getting a key hit in a big moment: we won only one game in our last at-bat (1-0 over Martensdale-St. Marys) but I can think of five or six games where we had at least the tying run on base in our last at-bat and could not get the run home.
"We also did not bunt the ball anywhere near as well as we should have or could have," he added. "I don’t think I can remember a team failing on the squeeze play as often as we did, and that (bunting) is a big part of our game. With the speed we have and the kind of athletes I think we have we should have done much better."
As a team Perry’s offensive numbers were nearly identical to those of the 2012 team that finished 19-15. One difference was a marked increase in doubles, which rose from 22 to 43, but also in strikeouts, which climbed form 153-172.
"I coached the same way I have coached for 36 years but for some reason we just did not hit like we should have," Long said. "We were — not everyone, but as whole — not aggressive enough at the plate.
"That attitude carried over to defense, too, where we had guys afraid to have the ball hit to them because they were worried they might make an error," he continued. "You cannot have that attitude — you have to want the ball hit to you, want to be the guy to make the play, be the guy who gets the big hit. It comes down to mental toughness and we have to be much better in that area."
Perry finished 5-11 in the Raccoon River Conference. Evidence of the up-and-down nature of the season is readily evident when examining the schedule: Perry strung more than two consecutive victories together just once — a five-game win streak in early July — while the Jays endured three-game losing skids three times.
Levi Halling was the lone senior on the team, which will feature six seniors and five juniors next summer, the most upperclassmen at one time in over a decade. Seven of those returning are regular starters, as is one sophomore-to-be.
"We seem to have a hard time making adjustments, but I expect that to be an area in which we are much better next year," Long stated. "We will have several guys who will be starting their second, third or fourth season and they are not going to be able to use the ‘young team’ excuse anymore."
Improved defense will be a must, as the team saw the number of unearned runs allowed jump from 27 to a too-high 57 this year. The pitching staff had a solid strikeout/walk total of 190-78 and an ERA of 2.86 while allowing the opposition to hit .230.
Jeremiah Ellett was 6-4 with a 2.05 ERA to lead the team in wins while weekend specialist Tyler Thompson finished 4-0 with a 1.4 ERA. Will Whiton (2-6, 3.4 ERA) led the team with 75 strikeouts while Cavan Finn showed improvement as the year progressed and finished 4-5 with a 3.67 ERA.
As of the start of the state tournament, Whiton led all of 3A with 41 steals and was caught just once. His .495 batting average was third best in 3A among those with 90 or more at-bats and he led Perry in hits 947), doubles (12), triples (2), runs (33) and walks (17) while driving in 22 runs.
Michael Lansing had the only two home runs hit by the team and led the Jays in RBIs with 30 while adding 11 doubles among his 30 hits. He finished with a .309 average at the plate.
Ellett (24), Blake Lansing (22) and Ben Daniels (22) were the only other Jays with more than 20 hits.
Ellett again led the team in being hit by a pitch (12) and was 20-of-23 on stolen base attempts.
"We need to be mentally tougher and able to adjust to situations better and if we do that we will be a much better team next year," Long concluded. "A few years ago we surprised some people and we ought to be in a position where we can do that again."