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Taking it slow and steady, and 1 series at a time

By Brendan Sagara

LAST UPDATED: 10:27 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

During a 100-game season, consistency is very important. Good teams perform at a high level most nights and are able to avoid losing streaks. Each year, the goal is to win each series, one series at a time.

Entering our recent six-game road trip, we had done a very good job of avoiding any slides. At 41-23, we were in first place and our pitching was tops in the league. With a steady starting rotation, a solid bullpen and an opportunistic offense we remained consistent.

When we saw our schedule for the season, we knew the first two months of the season would be a big challenge. With just 19 home games and 27 road games in May and June, and several bus trips of more than 12 hours, we knew that there would be a big psychological strain on our players.

During those two months, our guys were very business-like, winning eight series, while splitting two others. When July rolled around, we really hit our stride, going 14-5, including a 7-1 road trip against division rivals St. Paul and Fargo.

On this road trip, our team hit a wall. Our starters scuffled, we kicked the ball around, and we stopped hitting with men in scoring position — all at the same time. As you can imagine, we didn't fare very well on our road trip, going 1-5 to whittle our division lead to a single game.

As we made the 10-hour trip back home, we hoped someone would step forward and put the team on his back to get us out of our little slide. With second place St. Paul in town for three games, we knew getting back on track would certainly be tough.

From the first pitch of the game on Friday night, we knew our lefty Chris Salamida was going to have a good night for us. With a deceptive delivery and a sneaky upper 80s fastball and command of good breaking ball, Chris breezed through the first three innings.

His performance was even more significant as our hitters struggled to get a beat on Saints starter Matt Long, who matched zeroes with our southpaw to take a scoreless game into the fifth inning. Despite a 12-strikeout performance by Salamida, we still trailed 2-0 after six innings.

The tone had been set, the game was going to come down to which team was able to exploit the very few scoring opportunities that were presented. As we have most of the season, we found a way to pull a game out of the fire. Long scuffled just once that night, and we took advantage of it.

After struggling to get a base runner on in the first six innings, we finally got something going in the bottom of the seventh. Back to back singles by veterans Brian Myrow and Jon Weber set the table for us an on the very next pitch, our manager called for a hit-and-run with runners at first and third, and it worked, getting us a run on a groundout to short from our catcher Luis Alen.

Our next hitter, Justin Bass, stepped to the plate next and quickly slammed a pitch deep over the left field fence to give us the 3-2 lead. It seemed like it happened in an instant, and it kind of did. Before St. Paul could even get its bullpen up, we rallied for all the runs we'd need, as bullpen stoppers Ian Thomas and Aaron Hartsock held the Saints scoreless for the next two innings in dominant fashion to seal the win.

It finally felt like we played a solid all-around game and it was great, especially in a very important game. With a two-game lead in our division and 29 games left to go, we control our own destiny at this point. I'm hoping Friday night was the start of another good run.

Brendan Sagara, a former Leilehua and Hawaii-Hilo pitcher, is a veteran minor league pitching coach in his first year with the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

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