FLORENCE, S.C. – The bad news is the Florence RedWolves’ current losing skid hit four games following Tuesday’s 7-5 loss to Gastonia.
The good news is coach Ryan Vruggink believes his squad has started to find a remedy for some of the ailments that have plagued it since the season began.
“We talked to our (pitchers) yesterday and just kind of told them where we stand and what we’ve seen going on with them,” Vruggink said. “Yesterday was a lot better in terms of free passes – we only gave up three, which is below our average and a decent number for a nine-inning game.
“It kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”
If the RedWolves are going to turn things around from their 2-7 start, it will likely start on the mound. Florence ranks last in the Coastal Plain league in team ERA (6.90) and third from the bottom in walks allowed (58).
“We just attacked the zone a lot more yesterday – especially early,” Vruggink said. “We tried to force contact in three pitches or less. A couple times this week during this rough skid, we’ve just fallen behind in counts early and we’re having to try to force pitches in the zone.
“Our guys that have had success so far this year – Culver Hughes, Jared Lembeke, Connor Holden – those guys have pounded the zone and they’ve made guys try to beat them.”
The walks have led to a sort of snowball effect in which one hit has scored multiple runs and kept innings alive, Vruggink said.
That’s been especially true in the later innings. A third of all the runs scored against Florence this season (25) have come in the sixth frame or later.
“We’ve got talented arms here,” Vruggink said. “We’ve just got to tweak one or two things and I think we’ll hit the ground running. We’ve been working in bullpens with a lot of these guys, and that’s why they’re here is to work.”
The RedWolves have also been taking extra practice in the field as miscues have compounded the pitching woes. Florence ranks last in the CPL in fielding percentage (.916) and is tied for Wilmington for last place with 27 errors charged against it.
“It’s just giving teams way too many opportunities to score runs,” Vruggink said. “You always want to have them earn runs instead of a walk and an error and a double from a weaker hitter leading to two runs that you could have prevented.”
The offense has been a bright spot as Florence ranks seventh overall in terms of runs scored (46). The RedWolves have also out-hit or had the same number of hits as their opponents in six of the nine games thus far.
Zachary Durfee (.333), Michael Richardson (.333) and local standout Jake Swartz (.308) are all among the team batting leaders with Richardson and Swartz also among the top run producers with a combined nine RBI.
The RedWolves have eight players that have already driven in three runs or more.
“We’ve got guys top to bottom putting together some really good at bats, and we’ve got some depth on the bench now,” Vruggink said. “I think we’ve got 14 guys that can really hit and hit a high level, so I think the offense is going to keep rolling.”