There are two types of errors in baseball – mental and physical. While aggravating, most coaches can live with the physical errors. Booted groundballs, misjudged popups and errant throws happen – they are part of the game. When it comes to mental errors, though, it is a different story.
Mental errors can drive any coach up a wall. They are easily avoidable, yet happen on a somewhat regular basis. In the first two innings of Seton Hall’s 10-3 loss to Monmouth on Wednesday afternoon, coach Rob Sheppard witnessed the Pirates’ share of mistakes.
Trailing 2-0 in the first inning, starting pitcher Billy Layne Jr. was one out away from getting out of a bases-loaded jam. Layne Jr. did his part, inducing a ground ball to senior shortstop Al Molina. Instead of taking the out at first, Molina tried to get the easy force at second base. But Molina seemed to not realize that it was a full count and Monmouth’s runners were going on the pitch. There was no play at second base, and when Molina made his attempt to flip the ball to second baseman Sebastian Santorelli, it was too late. To make matters worse, Santorelli was late covering the base. Even if Monmouth was not running on the pitch, there was still no play.
In relief of Layne Jr., who was pulled after only one inning, 6-foot-9 junior right-hander Dylan Verdonk came on and instantly joined the mental error party. Early in the inning, Verdonk made an attempt to field a slow roller between himself and first baseman Connor Hood. The two failed to communicate and as a result, no one covered first base once Hood fielded the ball. Would the runner have beaten the play anyway? Most likely. However, the lack of communication was startling and unlike a Seton Hall team that is usually efficient defensively.
These types of games happen and it could be a flash in the pan. However, it is concerning for the coaching staff to see these mistakes being made as Big East play kicks off.
“They got to be ready for conference play,” Sheppard said following the game. “We have to pick ourselves up, regroup and be ready for this weekend.”
When taking into account which players were making the mistakes on Wednesday, Seton Hall’s mental lapses become all the more troubling. Molina and Santorelli are both upperclassmen and should have known better when it comes to the force play at second. As for Verdonk, it is common in pitcher’s fielding practice to let the first baseman handle a slow roller as the pitcher covers first base.
The Pirates cleaned up their defense as the game went on, not allowing a run in the final five innings, but they could not dig out of the hole those errors put them in. Seton Hall begins a three-game road stand at Butler on April 20 and it goes without saying that these mental errors must be eliminated. Playing on the road is hard enough, but playing in-conference on the road becomes all the more difficult.