Burrell gets back to fundamental baseball to get back to winning

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Thursday, April 11, 2024 | 4:13 PM


On the heels of his team being swept by Shady Side Academy last week, first-year Burrell coach Jay Miller focused on executing fundamentals in situational baseball with his team.

Extra-base hits are exciting, but moving runners over with a sacrifice bunt, hitting the ball to the right side of the infield to advance a runner from second to third and getting the ball into the air for a sacrifice fly when necessary can be equally essential for success.

The Bucs did each one of those things Tuesday and Wednesday and pitched exceptionally well to earn a two-game sweep of Freeport to even their Section 3-3A record at 3-3.

“We had conversations throughout the week about big in-game situations and how we can control that better as a team and how we should be thinking about them,” Miller said. “We saw a lot of steps forward maturity-wise, even from some of our younger guys.”

Burrell beat Freeport, 3-1, on Tuesday and completed the sweep with a 7-2 victory the following day.

The victories had similar threads.

The Bucs had a sacrifice fly both days and a crucial bunt that jump-started the offense.

Trey Coury brought in a run with a well-executed squeeze bunt Tuesday, and Adam Wass brought home a run with a sacrifice fly.

Wass’ sac fly was preceded by a bunt hit by Dylan McKallip and a sacrifice bunt by AJ McLafferty to move two runners into scoring position.

Isaac Lacinski had a pair of hits and RBIs, and Brayden Mell had a single and two RBIs in Wednesday’s win. The Bucs also had a sacrifice fly and a couple of successful bunts that proved crucial.

All in all, it was exactly the type of execution Miller wanted from his hitters.

“It comes down to a team mindset with your at-bats,” Miller said. “When you have two strikes with a runner on, you have to get the ball to the right side to make sure that runner gets to third base. Whenever there’s a guy on first base and the steal isn’t on, you get the bunt down and move them over. It’s fundamental baseball. It isn’t rocket science. It’s just doing your job in those scenarios when you’re called upon.”

Pitching execution mirrored the offense.

The Bucs got an excellent start from junior Stevie Hasson on Tuesday. He pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts. Miller said it was the best he has seen Hasson pitch.

Three pitchers — Lacinski, Mell and McClafferty — combined to pitch a two-hitter. Lacinski started and went 2 1/3 innings before being relieved by Mell, who went 1 2/3 innings. McClafferty closed out the game.

“We had strike percentages above 60 percent from our guys, which is fantastic for high school baseball,” Miller said.

Now the Bucs will try to bottle up what they did against Freeport and take it with them into next week’s series against defending section champ East Allegheny.

“I know after last week’s games against Shady Side Academy, our mindset coming in was that we needed to be the aggressor offensively,” Miller said. “We need to take advantage of other teams’ mistakes in those situations and create havoc, whether it’s running on the basepaths, putting the bat on the baseball with two strikes, or getting bunts down for base hits.

“With pitching, we have to throw strikes and not just throw strikes, but make sure we vary and mix our pitches. When you have to continually double up on pitches, it lets the hitter get comfortable.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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