By Chris Chaney
Beginning the season 5-1, inconsistency has marred a promising start for the Batavia Bulldogs, however an experienced roster still has seven Southern Buckeye Conference games on the schedule and the opportunity to compete for a league title.
“I think we’ve given a couple (games) away that we shouldn’t have, that I didn’t expect to,” head coach Mike Hatfield said. “We’ve had some nights where we’ve shot the ball well, but we’ve struggled when we don’t. We haven’t gotten as much out of our defense as I thought we would.”
Even still, the Bulldogs are 7-4 overall and 2-1 in the SBC-National, currently in third place, but without the opportunities that their league mates have had with two league games having been postponed due to weather.
The effect the winter weather has had on the Bulldogs hasn’t yet yielded any disadvantages, but Hatfield warns that won’t be the case for long.
“It’s going to have a really big impact soon,” the coach explained. “Looking at it, we’re going to play Jan. 31, Feb. 1, Feb. 4, Feb. 7, Feb. 8 and two more the next week.
“We play our last nine games, (beginning with Williamsburg on Jan. 24) in a really short period of time because of two makeups.”
At face value, rescheduling two games doesn’t sound too overwhelming, but trying to match up schedules and off days have put the Bulldogs in a tough spot to end the season. Hatfield said in order to prepare his team for the home stretch, Batavia will cut back on practice time and guys further down the bench will be asked to play increased minutes.
As for the guys who are seeing the majority of the minutes, the Bulldogs’ six seniors have provided leadership for Hatfield’s squad, with no one being more important to the team than 5-foot-11 shooting guard Austin Sammons.
“I think Austin Sammons has been our most consistent player to date,” Hatfield said. “Sammons has been by far our best defensive player. We’ve had a couple games where he’s changed the game by (guarding) their best player, which is really nice. He’s been scoring for us also.”
“(Kyle) Schmidtgen has done a good job taking care of the basketball at the point. (Freshman Jacob) McElfresh has been up and down. He’s scored 20, 18. He’s had a few big games and a few where he hasn’t scored any points. It’s just different for him, how physical it is.”
Football standout KeShawn Foley has added some physicality for the Bulldogs down low as has Chris Bourque. Batavia has 10 players on their roster averaging at least a bucket a night.
With only three games under their SBC belts, the Bulldogs not only have to run a gauntlet to finish the season, but the majority of their remaining games will be played against conference opponents.
Trailing league-leading Georgetown by a game and a half and Williamsburg by half of a game, the Bulldogs still control their own destiny if they are able to win out, although Hatfield admits, that is a daunting task.
“We have Burg Friday (Jan. 24) and Georgetown next Tuesday (Jan. 28), so those are big games,” he said. “I think we’re as good as anyone. We shot about as bad as we could against CNE (52-42 loss). I’ve seen Georgetown a couple times and I think we certainly have a shot against them.
“We made it hard on ourselves because to win the league outright, we have to not lose, which means beating Georgetown twice because I don’t believe anyone else is going to beat them.”
With a trip to Williamsburg next on the schedule, the Bulldogs will play their next seven games — all in-conference — in a span of 15 days. Whether or not Hatfield’s goal of winning the league outright is possible will become clear very soon.