Craig Steamboat Springs' baseball coach believes a losing attitude can become contagious, something he saw evidence of in his team's 11-0, five-inning loss to previously winless Battle Mountain Tuesday.
"Some of these kids have lost so many times that when they get down they go 'here we go again' instead of 'I'm not going to let it happen again,'" coach Sean Hicks said. "It's like they think it's allowed."
For three innings, Steamboat appeared ready to reverse its fortunes behind defense and the right arm of pitcher Owland Mackey. Then came the top of the fourth inning and Battle Mountain's 11-run charge.
Mackey began to struggle and the Huskies sprayed his pitches around the diamond. He surrendered seven runs and walked two before starting right fielder David May came on in relief.
May's off-speed pitches were effective, but the Huskies had already seized momentum and managed an additional four runs off the reliever in the fourth. Mackey and May faced a combined 16 Battle Mountain batters in the inning.
Meanwhile, the Sailors continued their season-long struggles at the plate, despite facing opposing pitcher Jimmy Feeney's hittable fastball.
"I don't want to take anything away from their pitcher," Hicks said. "But we had a pitcher throwing 55 to 60 mph and shutting us down. I knew we were in trouble when we didn't score in the first three innings."
The opportunities were there. With one out in the bottom of the first, Tyler Fosdick singled to left and promptly stole second. He advanced to third on Tanner Barr's sacrifice but was left standing on the corner.
In their half of the second, the Sailors left May at third after a one-out towering double that hit the bottom of the center field wall.
Feeney didn't allow another Steamboat baserunner after the second.
Following a series of team sprints after the loss, Fosdick expressed his frustrations.
"There's no effort," the second baseman said. "It might be different if we didn't have any talent, but I see no reason why we shouldn't be 9-0 instead of 0-9."
Hicks feels the same as his young player. He sees the ability in his players to win games, but he doesn't see the heart to turn the corner and the frustration is festering inside the first-year coach. He doesn't see the Sailors' lack of outdoor practice time as an excuse.
"Our problem comes within their heads, not with their talent and not with them being outside," Hicks said. "It comes with mental toughness and we have none right now."