It's good and bad that Winthrop will begin wrapping up fall baseball practice today, with the renewal of the Banana Split intrasquad series.
Good because after a month or so of evaluating his talent, coach Joe Hudak has a good idea on what he needs to focus on once preseason practice begins after Christmas. Bad because as good as the month's gone, he doesn't really want to begin packing up equipment for the winter.
"It's been a very good fall," Hudak said Wednesday, reclining in his new office atop the first-base line stands at The Winthrop Ballpark. "We've got a lot of new guys but they've got a good grasp on what we're trying to do, and the team chemistry is the best we've had of any team since I've been here."
The team began its Banana Split Series -- six intrasquad games where the losing team buys the winners a round of banana splits at the team's pre-finals banquet -- last weekend, sneaking in three games despite the overcast skies.
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Hudak, acting as commissioner, watched from the stands while assistant coaches Mike McGuire (Cardinal) and Stas Swerdzewski (White) battled on the field. McGuire's squad won two of the three games, 5-2, and 4-0, while the White team took the middle game, 4-1.
With sunny weather expected this weekend and coinciding with Parents' Weekend, the teams will play three more games, beginning today. The games are free and Hudak is hoping the parents in town to see their sons play will be joined by fans who want an early glimpse of the 2008 season.
"I'd say we had about 100 people each day," Hudak said, describing last weekend. "Both clubs have been going pretty well."
If the White team wins two to tie the series, everybody will pay for their own splits at the banquet. But if one teams wraps up the series before Sunday's Game 6, there's still a round of drinks on the line.
"Somebody's got to pay for the Cokes," Hudak grinned. "I hope they don't want me to pay for all of them."
Afterward, the program will begin wrapping up the fall session. The Eagles will hold their fundraising marathon game -- a 100-inning, special-rules affair where players are sponsored -- and then hold their Scout Day next week. Major League Baseball scouts will be invited to Winthrop to watch the Eagles, perhaps getting an idea of who to look at once the season rolls around.
As for this weekend, Hudak's hoping to see more of the same. The White team was plagued by pitching trouble -- it combined to walk 16 batters in three games -- but constantly pitched out of harm. The Cardinal team struck out eight and only walked one.
Offensively, Eddie Tisdale (.333) and freshman Sean Sullivan (.300) led the Cardinal team while Rock Hill native Cam Walters (.444) led the White. Walters, Sullivan and freshman Eddie Rohan each smacked a homer.
"After next week, we'll go back into individual work," Hudak said. "The work ethic so far has been tremendous."