Attention to fundamentals makes Card’s Kelly a happy coach
Little things are paying big dividends for Medical Lake baseball so far this spring.
The Cardinals’ 4-0 start in the Northeast A League, 5-1 overall, has been powered by executing fundamental baseball head coach Kerry Kelly said.
Medical Lake comes off a 2-0 week in NEA play following an 8-3 win last Tuesday over Freeman and a 19-2 roll over Kettle Falls last Wednesday. The Cardinals will have their first early showdown Saturday when they host Chewelah (5-1, 6-1) in a doubleheader starting at noon.
The biggest challenge in Kelly’s mind came versus the Scotties in which a 5-run third inning not only broke a scoreless tie, but gave the Cards some needed breathing room.
“Freeman, in my opinion, has always been one of those teams with a solid program,” Kelly said. “Look at all their sports.”
That big inning was keyed by three straight singles from Brayden Hale, Cory Wagner and Taylor Dormaier with Kasey Kelly delivering a double that made it 2-0. Kelly went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored while Wagner was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.
After Freeman closed it to a 6-3 game, Dylan Rushfeldt’s two-out single in the bottom of the sixth scored Kelly and Roman Kissack to make it an 8-3 game.
The rest was left up to reliever Dormaier who finished out the game for Adam Paulson who went six innings, struck out eight and gave up three runs. “Adam ran out of pitches,” Kelly said.
“Taylor Dormaier looked great closing the game against Freeman,” Kelly said. He struck out the side in the top of the seventh with just 12 pitches.
Kelly credited those fundamentals as the turning point. “If we don’t make the plays with two outs it’s a whole different ballgame.”
He noted a play where the first baseman got out of position, but the pitcher was there. “It was a bam, bam play, but it got us out of the inning,” Kelly said.
“It’s great to see when you work on these fundamentals, 20 to 30 minutes every day, how they factor into a game and get you out of a big inning,” Kelly said.
“Those type of things that don’t show up in the stat box, but they are very relevant to how our season will go,” Kelly said. “We made the plays, we did enough to win.”
Against a Kettle Falls team whose pitchers had little luck finding the plate, the Cardinals feasted off eight base-on-balls and just three hits – one a Kelly double – to rack up 11 runs in their half of the first. Three Bulldog pitchers surrendered 12 walks in the mercy-rule shortened 5-inning game.
Despite the big run production, only two Medical Lake players, Rushfeldt and freshman Tristen Keith got two hits. On the day the Cardinals had 12 hits, including three doubles from Kelly, Dormaier and Paulson.
“They could just not throw strikes,” Kelly said. “But we’ll take it.”
Kelly said the game produced another benefit. “The good thing was we got everyone into the game,” Kelly said. “It was a good opportunity to see everybody.”
Medical Lake tacked on another five runs in their half of the second. A walk and a balk set the table for Dormaier’s RBI double. A Kelly walk put runners on first and third and Paulson cracked a 3-2 pitch for a double that plated two more runs. Singles by Rushfeldt and Hale got the last two runs home.
The Cardinals finished scoring with a 3-run fourth where Hudson Petek’s first-pitch single scored a pair of runs. Tyler Munden followed with another single on the first pitch that chased Keith home.
Kelly not only got to get a good look at a lot of JV position players versus Kettle Falls but also got work out of three pitchers. Kissack went three innings surrendering just one earned run. Rushfeldt and Wagner closed it out with an inning apiece of no-hit ball on the mound.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.