Late rally sparks Bombers to fourth straight victoryJuly 11, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — John McDonald enjoys the simple things in life when he’s not consumed by all the fun and games that go along with playing baseball. And right now, those things consist of lakeside activities he isn’t able to do back in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.
“I like it out here, because I get to do some stuff up here that I don’t get a chance to do back in Birmingham,” said McDonald, following the Dubois County Bombers 10-2 victory over Fulton at League Stadium on Tuesday night – their fourth consecutive victory. “My host family lives out on a lake, so I get to go fishing and swim in the lake.”
But McDonald didn’t come to Dubois County for the swimming and fishing — instead he’s using his stint with the Bombers to improve on his batting and moving all over the infield to make himself a more versatile player for Austin Peay, his native collegiate baseball team.
One of the big changes that McDonald has made this summer is in the widening of his stance. He said that the narrow base used to adapt when taking the batter’s box caused him to take an extended step which often led to an early, unbalanced swing. By adjusting his feet a bit to widen out, he now can take full advantage of a more balanced swing, which he has used to the tune of a .303 batting average for the season.
“I’ve been trying to become more of a consistent hitter,” said McDonald. “I would say I’m more of a doubles and home runs guy, just been trying to stay back and spread the ball around the field.”
But for the first six innings of last night’s game against the Fulton Railroaders, McDonald and the Bombers couldn’t buy themselves a good hit. They had only been able to connect four times over the course of the game going into the seventh with their two runs coming via drawn walks while the bases were loaded.
“It’s not like we were hitting it with bad luck, we were not having good at-bats,” said Bombers coach Andy Lasher. “One-pitch outs. Bad swings, bad approaches against a guy (Fulton starter Ian McCoy) we should have been more patient with.”
But all of that changed in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nick Gonzalez didn’t start the game in his normal shortstop slot but Lasher and the Bombers needed a spark on offense. So Gonzalez took to the cage to warm up, and shortly after that found himself in the batter’s box. He had been watching McCoy from the dugout throughout the game and knew exactly what was coming on that first pitch.
“I like to watch every at-bat, and I could see he was throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs,” he said. “I love to hit first-pitch fastballs. I told myself I was ready if he throws it.”
And sure enough McCoy came with the fastball. Gonzalez took his swing, a two-run double which put the Bombers ahead 4-2 and opened up the rest of the lineup to march on to a 10-2 victory on Tuesday night.
“It felt really good, you do whatever you can to help out the team,” said Gonzalez. “Being able to light the fire, it was really fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing (Evan) Aders get the triple after and everyone else putting real good contact together after (that).”
And sure enough the runs came pouring in after that seventh inning stimulus package.
Third baseman Ben Wilcoxson notched a single to drive in Gonzalez, and center fielder Evan Kahre hit a triple to bring in two more runs as the Bombers closed the seventh with a 7-2 lead.
Pinch hitter Evan Aders knocked himself a two-RBI triple to extend the lead, and Gonzalez finished the scoring with a groundout that sent in Aders for the final run.
McDonald finished without a hit, but he was able to draw a walk in the seventh. Some days are like that at the ballpark but he was just happy to see the rest of the team around him get out of the hitting slump and post their fourth win in a row.
“We needed to win tonight, we’re only a half game back (in the division),” he said. “We saw blood in the water after Nick’s hit, rallied on and got a couple more. Nick’s our guy — once he gets the team going, we’ll rally behind him.”
With seven regular season games left, including the next four on the road, the Bombers are looking to finish the season strong and peak at the right time ahead of postseason play. Lasher isn’t making a big deal out of the road trip, for him the objective still remains the same no matter where the games take place.
“Home (or) away, baseball is baseball,” he said. “We’re just trying to play good, solid baseball. That’s all we try to do everyday. I just want us to continue going in the right direction.”
But McDonald is hoping the team can accomplish another goal that would be a personal mark of pride for them this summer.
“One our goals during the season is to win ten games in a row,” he said. “So, we’re going to try and do that. I think this road trip is going to be tough, but I think we got the guys to do it.”
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