The day before a CIF-Southern Section championship game, there are myriad preparations a team could go through – from choosing a pitcher to nursing injuries to studying film.
But Trinity baseball coach Mike Franchimone has one concern going into the CIF-SS Division 7 championship against Fillmore:
“Make sure they’re all there on time,” Franchimone said.
That’s not to say he hasn’t considered the aforementioned preparations. The first-year coach’s strategies have gotten the Knights into playoffs, but it’s his philosophies that have solidified the group as one of the most successful in program history.
They’re the first team to get a postseason win in Trinity baseball history and are the first to reach a CIF-SS title game. They went from an overall record of 10-10 in 2017 to 18-3 in 2018.
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In the dugout during games, there’s little talk of the score. Other than pushing for more runs, numbers aren’t a priority.
“We’re able to just keep going,” said second baseman Joey Andolino. “We just go out and play and just look at individual things like an at-bat by itself. Don’t think too much about it or get worried.”
Establishing that attitude was fairly easy through a Heritage League season in which Trinity outscored opponents 145-40. The team faced newfound pressure, however, in the postseason as three of four playoff games went to extra innings.
Adjusting the batting order and monitoring pitch counts were new challenges in addition to psychological hurdles.
“I think it’s more mentally preparing myself to go the seven innings and give it my all the entire game,” said freshman Luke Pfeiffer. “During the regular season most of our games we didn’t even get past five innings.”
The Knights offense has continued to produce. Pfeiffer leads the team with a .550 batting average and 36 RBIs. His older brother Andrew follows closely behind with a .458 average and 27 RBIs.
Andrew has been solid on the mound, too, logging a 1.05 ERA and 87 strikeouts on the season.
“We really value efficiency on the mound,” Andrew said. “…It’s not so much about striking everybody out as it is working the pitch count and keeping pitch counts low for every inning and for every at-bat.
“…It’s about being efficient while maintaining the same strategies that we had earlier in the season that got us success on the mound.”
When the Knights arrive in a timely fashion (as requested by Franchimone) at UC Riverside, they’ll be ready for Fillmore with the same relaxed mindset that they’ve had all year.
“It’s a big stage,” Franchimone said. “It’s a big stadium, it’s a nice place to play at and just to get in there, take a breath … and then once we’re in between the lines, let’s go to work.”