FARMINGTON — The Flat Bill Ducks have been working to build more trust between the players this summer, and the process took a big step forward in the team’s 9-2 win over the Demons in Connie Mack City League play this afternoon at Ricketts Park.
Dillon Lemons, a senior-to-be from Raton who started on the mound for the Ducks, has been working with the Ducks’ coaching staff on his approach to pitching against the level of competition this summer. Through the first part of the season, it wasn’t pretty for Lemons, who struggled to throw strikes while leaning heavily on his off-speed pitches.
That was the case again against the Demons. In the first inning, Lemons walked the first two batters he faced en route to allowing two runs. After the inning, Ducks head coach Brett Alexander re-emphasized to his hurler the importance of pounding the strike zone and trusting the defense to make outs behind him.
“He was struggling because he wanted to mix in more off-speed stuff and was trying to strike everyone out. With wood bats and a big park, you can get by throwing a ton of fastballs as long as they’re for strikes,” Alexander said. “After the first inning, we kind of came to that understanding.”
After the first inning, Lemons settled in and focused on pitching to contact, which resulted in him keeping the Demons scoreless while giving up six hits through the next six innings.
Alexander said he was glad to see Lemons face and overcome adversity during the game, and he believes the success from today's game will go a long way toward building the pitcher’s confidence over the rest of the summer and into the high school season next year.
The Demons did have chances to cut into the Ducks’ lead throughout the game, getting two runners in scoring position in the second, third and sixth innings. But in each scenario, Lemons and the Ducks got out of the jam.
“We still run into occasions here and there where the game gets a little fast for us. We can’t slow it down, and it kind of spins out of control for a little bit,” Demons head coach Eric Baker said. “I still think we’re doing all right, and we’re improving, but we need to figure out how to avoid those situations. One error is all right, but two or three in a row kills you.”
While the Ducks avoided mistakes when threatened, the Demons were not as fortunate. The Ducks sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the top of the third inning as the Demons committed error after error to help their opponent.
After Zach Taylor and Gabe Valdez drove in back-to-back runs to tie the game, the Demons committed errors on back-to-back at-bats that scored two more runs. Then, two batters later, starting pitcher Dakota Padoven balked in the inning’s fifth run.
“We didn’t string enough quality at-bats together. We’d have two or three guys in a row really do their job, but with runners in scoring position, when we really needed to bear down and have a good quality at-bat, we couldn’t find one,” Baker said.
The Ducks added their sixth run on a Kyler Duggins RBI single.
A Demons error in the fifth inning led to another Flat Bill run. Then, in the top of the seventh, the Ducks added insurance runs with RBIs from Taylor and Steele Justis.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.