Since dropping their first two games of the season, Southeast Bulloch’s been the hottest teams in the county.
The Yellow Jackets had won five in a row coming into Wednesday’s game against South Effingham, and the 4-7 Mustangs on paper didn’t seem like they would be getting in the way of SEB making it six in a row.
However no one for Southeast Bulloch — or South Effingham for that matter — accounted for Jakob Valleroy throwing one the best game of his life. Valleroy threw the six innings, allowing two runs off four walks and most importantly — one hit.
“Coach DeRing does a great job working with me in practice, so I gotta give some of the credit to him,” Valleroy said. “But I have to give most of the love to my defense. They were behind me the whole way.”
It wasn’t as if SEB couldn’t make contact with the ball either. Valleroy only recorded one strikeout and saw four runners reach base off the walks — but SEB helped out with how aggressive they were at the plate.
Valleroy averaged 3.5 pitches per batter and around 13 pitches per inning. SEB was aggressive at the plate and would swing at pretty much whatever entered the strike zone. They made contact on all of their outs by one — but all of those balls were hit directly at fielders.
“We put a lot of first pitch balls in play today and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Peterson said. “That’s not very different from the approach we take at the plate every day.”
If you’re Valleroy you have to thank lady luck for some of your success. In the world of sabermetrics — or advanced baseball analytics — they have a stat to quantify that luck called FIP, or field independent pitching.
FIP measures what a player’s ERA (earned run average) would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher had experienced average defending in the field. While the metric itself is too complicated to delve into in this simple game story — know all Major League clubs use it to eliminate luck from pitching performance.
Valleroy’s FIP during Wednesday’s ball game was 5.10 — which for any baseball fan knows that number in ERA form is awful. So boiled down, SEB just got unlucky Wednesday night — which stings even more when the score is 3-2. But as Peterson puts it, sometimes that’s just baseball.
“Baseball can be a brutal game and it doesn’t feel bad about it,” Peterson said. “We hit ball hard we just didn’t have anything to show for it. Sometimes you just have tough luck.”
The lone hit would actually produce the only two runs Southeast Bulloch would score in the game. In the bottom of the sixth things didn’t start too promising when the first two batters grounded out to Valleroy — making a no hitter seem very possible with just and inning and a third left to play.
Cole Mincey came up as the third batter of the inning and hit a 1-0 pitch right to the second baseman — nothing special for what had been happening during that game. However the ball was booted by the second baseman to give SEB a runner on with two outs. Bryce Harnage would walk to put two runners on the next at-bat — setting up #20 to be the tying run at the plate.
Joe Ham took a ball, then swung at a pitch and popped it high into centerfield. South Effingham’s centerfielder tracked the ball right, then lost it in the sun to see it fall a good 15 feet to his left to allow Mincey and Harnage to score. Ham tried to stretch the double into a triple, but was called out on a relay from shortstop to third.
“I proud of how we battled back in the sixth,” Peterson said. “Even as frustrating a game as it was for us at the plate, it never got into our guys head.”
The loss stands as the third for SEB this season — all of which have come by one run. All of those teams — Statesboro, South Effingham and Coffee County — are from much larger classifications. Peterson looks to this as encouragement, as he knows his team can play with just about anyone.
“It lets me know we’re doing the right things,” Peterson said. “It lets me know we’re not far off from being a really good team this year.”
SEB (5-3, 3-0) will hit the road next week when they face Johnson in a doubleheader on Tuesday, with the first game set for 5:00 pm.