Saturday, when the Salt Lake Trappers came home from their first road trip with a 1-4 record but a .338 team batting average, second-best in the Pioneer League, first baseman Eric Macrina was mired at .250, tied for worst on the team. No extra-base hits. Zero RBI. Seven strikeouts.
This was not what Macrina had envisioned when he signed with the Trappers out of Clemson University, where he hit .335 with 18 doubles, 24 homers and 84 runs batted in.Like his team, though, Macrina seems to have turned things about.
The Trappers went on another rampage Tuesday night, rebuffing the Pocatello Pioneers 15-4 at Derks Field for their fourth straight win and first trip past the .500 mark in the standings. They'd beaten Idaho Falls 17-1 the night before.
Macrina, who was 3-for-4 with two doubles on Monday against the Braves, added another three-hit performance Tuesday against the Pioneers. He had a run-scoring triple, two singles, a walk and two RBI and is 6-for-9 in his last two games.
He attributes last week's slump to getting adjusted to pro ball and putting pressure on himself to be the hitter he was in college. "One guy would tell me to relax and another would tell me my swing's too long. I was thinking too much at the plate," Macrina says.
The last two games, "I've been seeing the ball well and concentrating a little more," Macrina says.
He was just one of four Trappers with three hits for the night Tuesday - University of Utah's Mike Aranzullo had three singles and two RBI and Clemson's Todd Stefan and Trapper veteran Brian Biggers were each 3-for-4 with two RBI.
Macrina's early hitting woes and his apparent solution to them mirror the team's transition after the frustration of losing three games last week by two or three runs after making admirable comebacks.
"The club as a whole," says Manager Nick Belmonte, "they feel the momentum. They stuck with the hard times early - the heartbreaking games - not letting those things bother them at all, and they come back against Idaho Falls and win three, and that tells you a little about the character."
Tuesday they carried it on against the Pioneers. The Trappers scored two in the first and two in the second, then made a laugher out of a 4-3 game with a six-run sixth and five-run seventh.
"The most important thing is to jump on top early," said Macrina, who tripled in the first to drive in Salt Lake's second run and put the Traps up 2-1. "Then this team pulls together even more and shows more confidence."
Left-hander David Marcon threw seven innings of seven-hit ball, allowing three earned runs, after getting roughed up in his first start at Butte last week. "He was upset with the situation in Butte," said Belmonte. "I knew he'd come out after it. He was hungry."
And a little defense went a long way. "Even though we made a couple of errors, it tightened up when we had to have it," Belmonte said.
A double play erased a single, and after consecutive two-out singles, Trapper catcher Willie Smith threw out Jeff Scholzen trying to steal second with a man on third to end the second inning. Larry Minter singled to open the Pioneer third, but Trapper right fielder Benny Castillo gunned him down trying to stretch it to a double. "That's a big out," Belmonte said.
After catching a pop foul for the second out of the fourth with two men on base, Biggers made a tricky-hop play into the third out. "We've seen that from him before," Belmonte said. "He'll make the big play when we need the out." And in the sixth, Smith threw out another attempted thief to help cork a Pioneer rally that resulted in one run.
The Pioneers and Trappers play again at Derks Wednesday and Thursday nights. Jim Guidi out of Chicago's Lewis University gets his first start tonight.