ERIE — Many coaches face challenges stepping into a new program, having to learn about their players and what works for them.
It's a different story for Craig McBride, the former Niwot coach who has stepped in during the season as the interim coach for the Erie Tigers, replacing longtime head coach Harold Simmons. Other coaches have also stepped away from the program in recent days.
The Tigers played their first game with McBride and his staff Saturday in a 5-4 loss to Roosevelt. On Thursday, the team got their first win with their interim head coach over the Thomas Jefferson Spartans 13-1 in five innings.
"They have had great attitudes and are all great kids," McBride said. "It's hard to come in mid-season obviously, but they have had good practices and are working hard."
With the coaching change in-season, the team has been cramming in time to get together and comfortable with each other in the last week. The team has used different ways to try and speed up that process as the schedule is set to increase with multiple games next week after spring break.
"Before games, we go out for breakfast or lunch, depending on the game times," Erie's Brandon Hewell said. "We have a group chat so we talk about knowing what to do for games, coming out to practice and just prep for the games."
Though the coaches and players are new this year, one trend has to improve for the Tigers. Coming in with a .196 batting average as a team, Erie was looking to break out of their offensive slump and deliver at the plate.
The breakout game came Thursday with 10 hits, the most in a game this season. Hewell had three of those hits with a perfect day at the plate, as did Trevor Ball . Six of the nine hitters in the lineup recorded a base hit, including the last five in the lineup.
"The team hasn't been hitting too well and that's been costing us some of these games," Hewell said. "Today we came out and hit. That's what we've working on."
Specifically, the team has worked on situational hitting, from leading off an inning to driving in runners in scoring position, Hewell added.
"We're figuring out what we need to do to bring those runs home," Hewell said.
With Jon Thoren pitching in the game, the 13 runs would be more than enough for the senior. He was perfect through the first three innings, retiring eight of the first nine hitters by strikeout. Three walks to start the fourth inning resulted in a run scoring on a fielder's choice, but he did not allow a hit in his four innings of work. McBride chose to let Trey Rearick throw the top of the fifth to finish the game and saw him strikeout the side to finish a dominant game.
Both pitchers combined for a five-inning no-hitter with 12 strikeouts and three walks.
"(Thoren) pitched the same way I had watched him pitch," McBride said. "He is a great pitcher. He relies on his strength up there. He lost a little bit of focus in the middle of the game, but he was able to work through that, so that was good, and we just brought in Trey to get him some pitches."
There is still some learning and growth the Erie baseball team will be going through, and the schedule does not get easier with four games in five days when they return from spring break, but a win will help ease some of the tension and bridge the gap, they say.
"We can't let this get into our heads," Hewell said. "We just have to come out ready."
Erie 13, Thomas Jefferson 1
At Erie High School
THOMAS JEFFERSON (1-5)000 1 0 — 1 0 5
ERIE (3-4)044 5 x — 13 10 0
W — Erie Jon Thoren (2-1). L — John Greeman (0-1).
Thomas Jefferson hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Bobby Macias 2-1-0-0, Jacob Gonzalez 2-0-0-0, Nick Bowermaster 2-0-0-0, Evan Habitz 2-0-0-0, Manny Perez 2-0-0-0, Colby Achelpohl 2-0-0-0, Trenton Tyler 2-0-0-0, Mason Gawler 2-0-0-0, Mitchell Accola 2-0-0-0. 2B — none. 3B — none. HR — none. SB — none.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Isaac Khanna 4-0-0-0, Nash Phillips 3-0-0-0, Gavin Mendoza 3-2-1-0, Greyson Schenbeck 3-1-0-0, Benji Havener 3-1-1-1, Jon Thoren 3-2-1-0, Trevor Ball 3-3-3-1, Kaleb Fuhrmann 3-3-2-2, Brandon Hewell 3-1-2-2. 2B — Thoren, Hewell. 3B — Fuhrmann. HR — none. SB — Jonah Vanlandingham 2, Havener, Hewell, Schenbeck, Mason Veve,.
Thomas Jefferson pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — John Greenman 3-7-8-5-1-0, Nick Bowermaster .2-4-5-2-1-0, Bobby Macias .1-0-0-0-0-1.
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Jon Thoren 4-0-1-1-3-9, Trey Rearick 1-0-0-0-0-3.