One run short. That’s how the Nashville Outlaws finished the first-half of their season.
The Outlaws missed out on the Prospect League Central Division first-half championship by one game when they lost to the Dansville Dans 6-5 on July 4, the last game of the first-half of the season. The outcome secured the a birth in the Divisional Championship for the Dans.
The Prospect League has implemented a new playoff system this season in response to the league’s growth to 15 teams, which included adding the team in Nashville. The season is split into two halves. A Divisional Championship game will be played between the first and second-half division winners to determine who advances to the playoffs.
After a 3-7 start, the Outlaws aren’t that distraught with the way the first-half turned out. Three of their players -- catcher Doug Joyce and pitchers Navery Moore and Matt Fitton -- were selected to play in the Prospect League All-Star Game for their early-season performance:.
“We’re doing pretty good I guess,” Joyce said. “We were just one game away from clinching that championship spot in the first half but what can you say? Baseball is baseball.”
Moore, who plays for Vanderbilt, is encouraged by the first-half. He doesn’t think the team met it’s full potential.
“That’s always motivation because even though we let a couple games slip early in the season, it was good to know we are still in the running,” he said. “The first 10 games were a struggle and we came back from that to have a chance to win. If those games went differently it would have put us in a much better position. It’s good knowing that no matter how we play we have a chance to win the division.”
Manager Brian Ryman says there were several factors contributing to the team’s 3-7 start. Several players, including Moore, weren’t available because their collegiate teams were competing in regional playoffs.
They have opened the second half at 3-4 with games scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Richmond.
“We came off the All Star break a little bit flat,” he said. “I told them at the start of the second half the one thing we can’t do is have a bad start like we did in the first half. 2-3 isn’t where we want to be but it’s better than 0-5. I think there’s no doubt about it, we have a team that can win a championship.”
Despite the slow start and narrow first-half defeat, the Outlaws don’t feel any added pressure. In fact, overworking and over-thinking are two things the Outlaws stress that they must avoid. Joyce noted that in the second-half he hopes to “just have fun” when the Outlaws play.
“One goal is to maintain and not overdo,” Moore said. “A lot of times when you are competing for the lead in a division you try and change something, but our main focus is to keep playing consistent within our game, to stay relaxed and have fun. When you stress and try to do too much that’s when you fall short of your goals.”
Ryman listed weariness as the cause for some of the Outlaws woes.
“The games that we have lost I felt like we have basically given them away,” he said. A lot of that is from a bit of fatigue—this is a grind. It’s tough for a college kid who gets two days off a week to play for 5 days straight and maybe play a double header.”
The players and Ryman both understand that the goal of the Prospect League is to allow players a competitive environment to improve their game. That doesn’t stop the manager from lauding his team’s potential.
“I think they know that they have the kind of talent that it’s going to take to get there,” Ryman said. “No doubt in my mind that we have the best starting rotation and we have the best closer in the league. I guarantee you that we’ll be in the mix and the end.”