Final playoff spot still within sight
By Lyle Carter
With a last-place 4-15 record and just nine games remaining on their Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League schedule, the Truro Bearcats season might be described as a disaster.
But the players have remained positive and feel that progress is being made.
At a practice this week, 12 Bearcats appeared in good spirits as they worked out at the TAAC Grounds under head coach Scott MacGillivary and his assistant James MacPherson.
The players spent 30 minutes on infield and outfield defensive drills. This was followed by bunting and batting practice.
"One thing we've done this year is build for the future," said MacGillivary. "Mike Tobin is a prime example. Mike is an 18-year-old from Antigonish and right now he's one of the best shortstops in the league. On the bench, some of us talk about what a ball player this guy will be in two or three years."
MacGillivary, 42, said five players on the roster are 21 or younger including Daniel Bates, a 20-year-old leftfielder.
"He has an excellent arm and besides playing well defensively he is second on our team in RBIs with 11," said MacGillvary. "He's batting .220 and is around the top of the league in doubles."
Catcher Troy Fisher, 19, batting .361, is another bright spot. Josh Fushtey, 21, a right-handed pitcher, has been solid with a 1-2 pitching record and an ERA of 3.71 after joining the Bearcats following three seasons with the Dartmouth Juniors. Brandon MacKay, 19, a product of the Truro minor baseball program, is a utility outfielder.
"One of our goals this season was to become a better baseball team from the beginning of the season to the end of the year," said MacGillivary, a longtime teacher from Bible Hill. "We feel we're accomplishing this. There's been quite an improvement in our play especially during the last few games. This bodes well as we put on a drive to try and make the playoffs."
Veteran outfielder Joe MacPherson, 32, couldn't agree more.
"We had recent wins against two of the league's top teams, Kentville and Dartmouth," said MacPherson, who is in his 15th season with the Bearcats. "Defensively, we're sound and our bats are getting more balanced. We're playing the game the right way and we're coming together as a team."
It's good to be able to help bring them along. A big part of the reason I'm still playing baseball has to do with the development of these young players."
MacPherson, who played for the Bearcats when they won the league title 10 years ago under coach Glenn Matheson and with stars such as Winston Brown, Craig Higgins, Shawn Fuller, Geoff Fielding and Kevin Matheson, feels a lot has been accomplished this season.
And he is still hopeful about playoffs, given that Truro trails the fourth-place Sydney Sooners (6-14) by only 1.5 games in the battle for the final playoff spot.
"Absolutely. We have a shot to get in."
Rookie shortstop Mike Tobin is also happy with what he has seen of late.
"We've begun to bring things together," Tobin said. "I think the other teams around the league are beginning to take notice."
Tobin, who will attend the University of Vancouver Island and play his baseball for the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute next year, spoke highly of MacGillivary.
"It's been really good for me playing under Scott," he said. "He runs things right and he really brings out the best in his players. The guys like playing for him. I really respect the guy. I also appreciate that he's helping me prepare and get ready for what I'm going to see in Vancouver."
The Bearcats host Sydney at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the TAAC Grounds and the Halifax Pelham Canadians on Tuesday at 7.30 p.m.
Lyle Carter's sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.