The veterans with the Kansas Alumni baseball team may not be able to range to their left too far to field a groundball, and they may struggle to go first-to-third on a single.
The drawbacks to getting old are usually obvious, but the advantages that come with experience can be more nuanced.
The Alumni used many of them in an 11-1 six-inning run-rule win over Tulsa in an National Baseball Congress World Series losers bracket game Monday night at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The veteran group won its second game of the day and stayed alive after losing its opener Saturday night. The abundance of runs, the most of the tournament’s first week so far, came as a result of at-bats younger players aren’t always adept at executing.
Alumni players hit the ball up the middle with a drawn-in infield, hit fly balls with runners on third base and less than two outs, and find every chance to take an extra base.
“I think what we’re really good at is taking what we get,” said Matt Baty, Alumni’s general manager and second baseman. “Runners at second and third, we’re going to put the ball in play, runners at first and second we’re going to bunt. We can’t play for that double in the gap anymore, so we’ve got to play small ball and we’re going to play the game the right way.”
There weren’t many doubles in the gap — Adam McCormick and Mark McBratney each hit an RBI double in the first inning, but all of the Alumni’s other eight hits were singles. It made the most of them, though, either by driving in runs or using them to create situational hitting opportunities that the veterans welcome.
The experience extended to the Alumni’s coaches. Manager and third-base coach Mark Standiford figured out early that Tulsa’s outfield arms were below average, and he often sent hitters to score from second on singles. The only out on the bases made by the Alumni came on a first-inning force.
“Anytime you can get some hits on the board, it can be contagious,” Baty said. “You look at this lineup 1-through-9, we can swing it a little bit. The key is, obviously, pitching. If we can pitch, we’re going to play with anybody.”
The Alumni got four strong innings from former Wichita State left-hander Rob Musgrave, who allowed two hits and an unearned run. Fellow ex-Shocker southpaw Reuben Kerbs finished off the final two innings.
Almost any quality of pitching was likely to be enough Monday for the Alumni, which scored five runs in the sixth to end the game with two outs. The inning was highlighted by two small-ball plays in which the Alumni specialize.
With one out and runners on second and third, former Oklahoma State outfielder Deik Scram singled up the middle through a drawn-in infield to score both runs. Three batters later, McBratney hit a sacrifice fly.
Even 49-year-old Terry Elliot pitched in with a pinch-hit single in the sixth to end the game.
“We’ve got some of the best hitters I grew up playing with and against,” McBratney said. “Deik Scram, that’s a phenomenal at-bat, getting to 3-2 after he was down 0-2 and poking it through the middle. That’s what we teach, is doing those little things in those situations. It’s veteran at-bats and guys that don’t panic in those situations.”
Three innings off was welcome for a team that needed two wins to remain in the tournament. Even a short break, though, isn’t as energizing as the possibilities after a pair of victories.
“We’ve got a chance in any game,” McBratney said. “That’s how we’re looking at it.”