By Ray Hamill — Pitching has been an early strength for the Humboldt B52s this season, and if the Eureka-based club can get match that with some offensive consistency they’ll be in for a very good summer.
This weekend, the B52s will welcome the Redding Ringtails to Bomber Field, and head coach Scott St. John is hoping to see a little more from his bats.
“You know, the pitching is looking like it’s going to be there,” he said. “But now we need to score some more runs.”
The Ringtails, who defeated the Redding Colt 54’s earlier this week, will face a B52s team that is riding a three-game losing streak, although all three losses came against quality opposition and two of them in extra innings.
Last weekend, the B52s dropped two games on the road against a perennially tough Healdsburg Prune Packers team.
But after getting blown out on Saturday, the B52s played the home team far closer in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings on Sunday.
“After getting beat 12-1 on Saturday, we talked about coming out with a little more fire, a little more passion on Sunday, and we really did that,” St. John said. “I was really happy with the way we came back and competed on Sunday against a very good team.”
The head coach says he was particularly happy with his team’s pitching effort in both games.
Cade Sheets, Jordan Forrester, Ryan Rivera and Karter Koch all impressed in Healdsburg, and they haven’t been alone.
Eureka’s Luis Pimentel, who is likely to get the start for Friday’s series opener against the Ringtails, has been solid in two appearances this season, with an ERA of 0.82, as has Tommy Gale, who leads the team with a 2-1 record in four appearances.
Koch has been particularly impressive out of the bullpen, while Sheets is turning into a consistent and reliable starter.
“Cade Sheets is very competitive,” St. John said.
At the plate, the B52s have four players batting above .300, including Eureka’s Ethan Fischel, who has a team second-best .348 average.
Newcomer Eric Smelko, fresh out of high school in San Diego, has also impressed early, wasting no time in settling in.
Smelko, who is on his way to St. Mary’s this fall, batting a team-best .462 in three games with the B52s, and also offers a solid option in center field.
“He’s just fit right in,” St. John said of Smelko, who also pitches and could see some time on the mound this weekend.
Mateo Hamm (.333) and Braeden Holliday (.318) are each also batting above .300.
The coach is also expecting a tough challenge against the Ringtails, a relatively new club.
“They’ve really stepped up their game these last couple of years, so we’re expecting them to be a pretty competitive team,” he said.
Two weeks into the summer season, the B52s have almost a full complement of players with a couple more expected in town this weekend.
The three-game series with the Ringtails gets under way on Friday night at 7:05 p.m., with addition games on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 12:05 p.m.