“We’re very excited to go to Pulaski, Tenn. on Monday to the tournament,” TC head coach Will Ramos said. “In the first game, we’re playing a good team: Freed-Hardeman out of Tenn. They’re ranked no. 17 in the nation. I think they’re on a bit of a losing streak right now. The last few games we’ve been playing a lot better. The defense and the bullpen are starting to come together, so we’re very excited.”
The level of competition at the tournament will be fierce, but Ramos is confident that if his team plays to their capabilities they will have a good chance to finish at the top.
“The types of teams we’re going to face are good teams in a six-team tournament,” Ramos said. “Two of the teams at the tournament, we already played them. One of them is Edward Waters and the other is Bethel University. We’re very confident because Bethel actually won their side of the conference. They won the no. 1 seed; they only lost one game in their conference. Bethel beat Freed-Hardeman and Martin Methodist and all the teams on that side easily. But we beat Bethel here easily too, so that got my players very excited about it. We’re not saying we’re going to go over there because we beat Bethel and win every game. But I think we have a good shot if we do what we’ve been doing: hitting the ball well and pitching with my three guys Drummonds, Pool and Pettus. We’re pretty excited and very confident. Even though the competition is going to be at a high level, I think we can play with them. I’m very confident we’re one of the toughest teams in that tournament.”
Talladega College (32-22) currently ranks third in the NAIA in team batting average at .343. Nerio Barreto is the top player in NAIA in doubles with 28 on the season. Hitting on the whole has been one of the team’s greatest strengths.
But Ramos said he expects his pitching to be solid as well, particularly from the team leader in wins, Jeff Pool, and the team leader in ERA and strikeouts, Ryne Drummonds.
“We expect good things from them in the next few games,” Ramos said. “Drummonds will pitch on Monday and we play at 7 nighttime. We’re excited about that because we play better at nighttime. It’s good that we’re having the first game at nighttime. Drummonds will start that game against Freed-Hardeman. We play the next day at 7 again and Pool will start that game. We’re very excited about those two guys. We just need to make plays for them and hit the ball and I’m pretty sure we can come up with the win.”
Ryan Pettus has emerged late in the season as the team’s clear-cut third starter.
“Pettus is a guy at the end that started coming on really strong giving us good outings,” Ramos said. “He’s a special pitcher. He is a guy that can throw a knuckle ball for a strike and he throws a lot of off-speed pitches. He’s been really, really good, giving us some good innings and giving us some chances to win some games. Lately, we’ve been putting him in the no. 3 starter role and he’s up to the competition. So, I’m very excited about him right now.”
With Pettus solidifying the third starter role, Ramos was able to move one of his starters to the bullpen and the move has paid off.
“Matt Holland is a guy that we’ve been using in a dual role,” Ramos said. “He started for us at the beginning of the season and as the season was winding down, we know the tournament is a three-pitcher tournament. So, we moved Matt to the bullpen. Also, we needed some help in there. He’s done a tremendous job for us. He can shut the door for us. We really need a guy like that because we’ve been having some problems with the bullpen guys. Lately, the guys in the bullpen have kind of been helping. They’ve really been getting better, even though Drummonds and Pool all the time they pitch, they take the team deep in innings. Lately, the bullpen has been doing well and the reason the bullpen has been doing well is because of Matt Holland.”
TC has struggled defensively with errors this season. Ramos has had to be creative in shuffling his players around, but the changes have worked well thus far.
“In the infield, we have some guys hurt,” Ramos said. “We worked in Jesus Rosario lately at second base and he got hurt and he’s done for the year. So, that’s made me make some changes in the infield. [Austin] Drummonds is doing a good job at second base and he’s also doing a little better job than Nick [Foster] at the plate. When you see the changes that you see, everything we’re doing with the mind that when we go to the tournament we don’t want to just do it for the first time in the tournament. We want to do it before the tournament so we see how it works and it’s working out very well. The errors are coming down tremendously and we’re very happy about that.”
TC, the no. 4 seed, plays at Martin Methodist University in Pulaski, Tenn. with game one against Freed-Hardeman University, the no. 3 seed, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.