Having had an uncharacteristically slow start to the Western Province Major League baseball season, former champions Athlone Athletics are slowly clawing back to winning ways with some impressive displays.
The secret to their success: keeping it simple and getting back to basics
The Parktown-based outfit were, once again, clinical against struggling Durbanville Villains at the weekend, winning 6-2 to make a big move away from the foot of the table.
Coach Ricardo Siljeur’s side, considering the high standards they have set over the years, had a poor start to the season, winning only one of their first five league matches.
Their defeat against arch-rivals VOB, at Chukker Road, earlier this month, was a concern as it revealed a lack of concentration,
Those early setbacks may have been a blessing in disguise for Siljeur’s side as his technical team had a chance to fix those loose ends before the Christmas break.
To their credit, the A’s continued pushing hard and the results started coming their way.
Their hard work was immediately rewarded when they overcame newcomers Van der Stel 6-5 at Parktown, a fortnight ago.
That game proved to be a serious test of character for the A’s but they come out tops.
The Stellenbosch side were leading 5-1 at some point and, understandably, some of A’s fans started to think their side were in for another defeat.
However, a little pressure was just what they needed and the match ended 6-5 in favour of the A’s.
That victory was what they needed to boost their confidence levels but they were still not there yet. They still needed to win this past Saturday’s encounter against Durbanville to keep the momentum going. Durbanville has been struggling when it came to getting results but Siljeur made it clear, ahead of that game, that they were not going to take the northern suburbs side for granted.
That’s exactly what they did. The A’s side proved to be more decisive and took every chance that came their way. They were deserved winners at the end of the day.
It als became clear, from that performance, that the young side assembled by Siljeur and his technical team was slowly gelling together, something that was absent in the early stages of the season when they struggled to get positive results.
In fact, Siljeur stated that it was going to take a little bit of time for his side to gel together. He even pointed out that their plan for this season was to finish at least in the top six. This, he said, was because, they had their sights firmly on building a strong team for the future. Having said that, however, Siljeur also noted that, as one of the big teams in the major league, A’s were expected to get positive results week in and week out.
And, if what they have produced in their two previous outings is anything to go by, the Parktown-based outfit might have just turned the corner. Whatever coach Siljeur and his technical staff had said to the players following their last defeat against VOB, it clearly worked. The coach was critical of the way they approached that particular game, especially considering that they literally threw it away, having led 6-0 at some point in the game.
“The fundamentals of baseball dictate that you have to concentrate throughout the match and make sure you give very little away. Having said that, however, we have learnt our lessons,” he said. One of those lessons, he said, was that they needed to stay in the game, especially mentally, even when they seemed to be in control. “No matter how big is the margin, you need to stick to the basics and keep scoring,” he said. Siljeur said they were aware that, as one of the big teams in the league, they were expected to be on the other side of the table rather than at the bottom.The A’s coach and his charges surely know that the two positive results they have produced at home do not mean that they have made it, there is still along way to go, and there are even bigger stumbling blocks ahead of they. Their youngsters need to keep the momentum going and the more experienced players have the duty to guide those youngsters into the right direction.
After all, they will have to be at their best when they come up against their title-chasing rivals, Bellville Tygers and Bothasig Knights, who seem to be almost unbeatable this season. The Tygers and the Knights have swept everything in front of them this season but, having said that, this is Athlone Athletics we are talking about.
The side side has won the major league a number of times before, they know exactly how to get themselves out of tight corners to win crucial matches and that means one cannot really rule them out, not in these stages of the campaign.
*In other action. Westridge Yankees proved to good for Grassy Park Crusaders, winning 13-9. At Chukker Road, VOB Macaws recorded their third straight win when they overcame Maitland Giants 14-6. Bothasig Knights and Bellville Tygers continued their unbeaten runs beating Van der Stel and Helderberg 25-0 and 12-1 respectively. However, one of the two sides will relinquish their unbeaten record when the two sides lock horns in the top-of-the-table clash in Bellville.