NORTH ADAMS -- What a difference quality pitching can make. The McCann Tech baseball team is starting to realize that.
The Hornets have received quality starts more frequently since the calendar turned to May. In their four games this month, they've received three strong performances on the hill.
"It all starts with pitching,' senior pitcher T.J. Therrien said. "If you don't throw strikes and if you're walking people, then you're game's going to show. ... Defense wins games."
It's a trend that needs to continue if the Hornets are going to reach the magical 10-win mark and qualify for the Western Massachusetts tournament. After a 2-2 stretch over the last four games, they sit at 6-6 heading into today's game against Sabis.
"It's crucial" to keep this going, said sophomore Sean Davis, who has caught more than pitched this month but is scheduled to start today's game. "If we don't throw strikes, we're not going to do it."
Over the last four games, more strikes has been a key adjustment, but there's an overlying change that has taken control. That change has been attitude, and it started after the April 29 loss to Westfield Voc., giving the Hornets two losses against the Tigers for the first time in recent memory.
The Hornets had a meeting prior to practice the next day and have played more consistent baseball since.
"Coach [Pat Ryan] came to practice and we all had a meeting about where we want to go with the season, and it's time to turn it around," Schneider said. "I think that was the turning point when we lost to them again."
A day later, Therrien toed the rubber, tossed a complete game and started the transformation simply by being confident.
"[Our pitchers] really want to be out there," Davis said. "That really goes a long way because if you're head's not in it, you're not going to throw strikes."
Schneider followed up Therrien's outing with one of his own, throwing four innings of a five-inning, mercy-rule victory over Smith Voc. The junior then held St. Mary's, the best team in the league, to six runs on six hits in six innings of work Monday night.
Coach Pat Ryan was as happy as a coach can be after a 6-0 loss. The Hornets played "baseball" as he said.
"The kids brought the game," Ryan said. "The kids during the game were telling me ‘coach, I'm having a lot of fun. I'm feeling really good and really confident.'
"We played really well. We played against a great team, and it's really confidence, it's all mental."
Knowing that, Ryan has stayed on point of late with his pitchers about keeping a positive outlook on the mound, not letting one bad batter ruin an inning or a game.
"Day in and day out, I constantly have to be on pitchers like T.J. Therrien and Sean to say you guys are good pitchers when you want to be," Ryan said. "You get out there and you throw like you're capable, and you let batters go by and just do your part, good things are going to happen."
Schneider's performances have come out of necessity for McCann. The Hornets lost Eli Holland early in the season and needed a third starting pitcher.
After his first start, the coaching staff tweaked some mechanical flaws, and when it was his time again, it was world of difference.
"From what we told him, he just looked better," Ryan said. "He looked confident and he was hitting his locations. He just was a totally different kid."
He'll be a major component, as will Therrien and Davis down the stretch if the Hornets are going to make it to the postseason.
They know what's at stake and what it's going to take to get there.
"We got six left. We got to go 4-2 at least to make it," Schneider said. "It'd be nice to get at least five out of the six, so you got to have more consistent starts from everybody."
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On Twitter: @NAT_DigitalJosh