Monday, March 12, 2012

Prep baseball: Recent struggles baffle Manatee's coach

(photo by John Lembo)Manatee's run to last year's Class 5A state final four was built primarily on its sound fundamentals and defense.
So coach Dwayne Strong isn't quite sure why this year's edition hasn't followed suit. Manatee committed 30 errors in 31 games last year, Strong said, but 17 errors in its last four.
The Canes played sloppy during an 8-2 loss to Flanagan on Monday during the first day of the Sarasota Baseball Classic. They committed five errors and four in Flanagan's four-run seventh inning.
"It's becoming a concern," said Strong, whose team has been outscored 17-3 in its past two games. "When you return so many guys, trying to get them to stay focused and getting them to work on what they need to work on is a difficult task."
Manatee graduated four starters from last year's team, which won 22 games and came within a game of playing for a state championship.
This year's team is 6-4 overall but 4-1 in Class 7A-District 11 and own a one-game lead over Sarasota and Venice.
"Last year, we did a pretty good job," Strong said. "We've made half the errors in four games than we made all of last year."
So do the Canes fix it? Strong isn't sure. He just knows it needs to be fixed if Manatee wants to make another long playoff run.
"I don't know what the answer is. I'm going to get out of here, do some laundry, think about it and regroup for (Tuesday)," he said. "It does surprise me because we've got a good ballclub and we've got good players. For these guys not to be making routine plays is disturbing."

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