There is no secret sauce to a hot start. There may be a recipe, but it’s no secret.
“It’s a good coaching staff and veteran players and there’s a lot of overall talent,” Tucson Saguaros slugger Mike Morris said. “When you combine that, and you have the same goal, and everyone respects the voice from the coaches, going to work together, it’s easy to have starts like this.”
That explains a little about the Tucson Saguaros’ scorching start. They were 11-3 heading into Wednesday night’s home tilt against the White Sands Pupfish at Kino Stadium. The Saguaros sit in first place in the Pecos League’s South Division.
This explains a little more: Seven of Tucson’s lineup mainstays are batting better than .300. And in a hitter’s league, three Saguaro starting pitchers sport an earned run average below 4.00.
“We knew coming in to spring training that we were loaded with talent on paper,” manager J.D. Droddy said. “That doesn’t always translate to a good team, but early in spring training, we began to gel. When we took the field, you could just feel it.”
As much as the talent has been key, the camaraderie, Droddy said, took it to another level.
Droddy said it happened early: Pitcher Steven Borkowski, who has been an ace for the Saguaros with a 2-0 record and 2.11 ERA in three starts, said the players started shedding the nerves within hours of meeting each other.
“We showed up to spring training, and we started messing with each other right away,” said Borkowski, in his second year of minor league ball after playing college baseball at St. Catharine College in Kentucky. “We were all kind of nervous; some people maybe knew one other person. But once we started to talk every day, started with batting practice, we realized a lot of us have the same personality.”
Morris, for one, has seen this before.
He won a championship with the Roswell Invaders last season — the team’s third title in five years of Pecos League play — while batting .338.
“I was fortunate to be on a championship team last year that gelled quickly as well,” he said. “This team has more talent, and we have that gel, too. It happened rather quickly, probably a lot quicker than I’ve seen a team gel. The right personalities have clicked together.”
Most importantly, it’s translated onto the field.
While the team has won plenty of routs — 18-5 over White Sands on May 30, 22-12 over the same squad on May 25, 11-4 and 11-6 over Santa Fe on May 19-20 to start the season — the Saguaros have also eked out a few close wins.
After the 22-10 margin over Santa Fe in the season’s first two games, they beat the Fuego 3-1 and 3-2 to cap the 4-0 start, which would stretch to 6-0 over the next two days.
“In tight game situations, we’ve been good executing the small ball,” Borkowski said. “We’re very confident in every player getting a hit, and there’s no doubt in our minds that any guy off the bench or out of the bullpen can do the job.”
Droddy sees it as his job to monitor the emotional pulse of the team. He leaves much of the skills coaching to his staff, and instead, “I try to keep the team emotionally up,” he said.
“We had a game in White Sands that we played really badly, and it was mental, not physical, and the guys did not like the way it felt,” he said. “We’ve tried to tap into that. (Monday) night, we started slowly, and I was afraid we might have a repeat of that. A small crowd, not very loud, and it felt like a funeral parlor. Next thing you know, we’re putting up eight runs in an inning. We didn’t get any better, our skills were the same, but we got mentally up and started playing like we can play.”
As they’ve proven less than a month into the season, that’s pretty darn good.