Fish thriv­ing on drive

Wild-card chase keeps Scoma in top form in hot ac­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - SPORTS - By Kyle Jahns

EVEN af­ter an 11-4 loss, Ryan Scoma slept like a baby. It’s very much needed at this point of the sea­son.

The Win­nipeg Gold­eyes are play­ing through their fi­nal home­s­tand of the reg­u­lar sea­son and there’s never been a bet­ter time to get as much rest in as pos­si­ble. That’s why, de­spite los­ing to the St. Paul Saints Tues­day night, Scoma tucked him­self into bed and got a 12-hour sleep — one of the best he’s had in re­cent mem­ory. Scoma prefers to leave those losses in the rear-view mir­ror and opt to fo­cus on the wild­card spot that lies ahead.

But whether it’s a cushy 12-hour sleep in an air-con­di­tioned ho­tel room or an on-and-off four-hour nap on a trav­el­ling bus, Scoma finds it easy to get up and pre­pare for the rest of the sea­son. What it all comes down to is the fact that the Gold­eyes are still in the play­off pic­ture.

“At this point we’ve played so many games through­out our whole ca­reers and one game shouldn’t make or break it,” Scoma said of the loss. “I know it’s crunch time, but this isn’t our first loss of the sea­son. Of course, now is pretty crit­i­cal for suc­cess and we want to win th­ese last few games.”

Scoma also takes com­fort in the fact that what­ever men­tal ex­haus­tion he and the Gold­eyes club­house might be feel­ing, there are 12 other teams in the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion go­ing through the same 100-game sched­ule.

“There’s al­ways a grind at the end of the sea­son. Some peo­ple might lose fo­cus, es­pe­cially now. But the nice thing about this is we’re still in it,” Scoma said. “Un­til you’re math­e­mat­i­cally elim­i­nated there’s re­ally no point in los­ing that fo­cus. As long as we come to the field still know­ing we’re play­ing for some­thing, it’s enough to keep you go­ing.”

Even this week’s ar­rival of hot tem­per­a­tures helps put Scoma in the right state of mind. The Gold­eyes out­fielder has been com­fort­able in the heat dur­ing Win­nipeg’s first two games of the home­s­tand. Game-time tem­per­a­tures were in the low 30 C range.

“The heat can keep you loose. Yeah, it can con­trib­ute to a more tired feel­ing, but for the most part it’s how you look at it. Some­times it’s men­tal and you just need to stay hy­drated,” Scoma said.

Phys­i­cally, Scoma still feels good. And when he looks around his club­house, he sees other play­ers who are phys­i­cally and men­tally pre­pared to take on the fi­nal home­s­tand.

“You should be ready to go by this time,” Gold­eyes out­fielder Fehlandt Len­tini said. “I’ve al­ways felt bet­ter at the end of the sea­son once you have some games un­der your belt. But you should be fo­cused by now be­cause it’s go time.”

Len­tini keeps to his sched­ule and puts just as much ef­fort into train­ing and prac­tice now as he would dur­ing any month of the sea­son. But it all starts with one im­por­tant fac­tor.

“Just get a good sleep. I do the same thing ev­ery day, train hard and hit a lot just to make sure I feel ready. I’ll do what­ever I can to try and pre­pare but I’ll al­ways try and get a good rest,” Len­tini said.

As the wild-card pic­ture be­comes clearer ev­ery day, the pres­sure mounts on Scoma and the Gold­eyes to gain the lead. But it wouldn’t be called a wild­card race if pres­sure wasn’t in­volved. For Scoma, it’s just an­other men­tal state of mind to over­come.

“You’re in the hunt and ev­ery­one wants to be per­fect. You don’t want to be headed home in the com­ing days so it can be added pres­sure,” Scoma said. “But that’s the game we play ev­ery day and you try not to change your ap­proach in any­thing. You just go out and play your game.”

Be­fore Wed­nes­day night’s game the Win­nipeg Gold­eyes were 1.5 games back of the Gary SouthShore RailCats in the wild-card race. How­ever, while the Fish will play 100 games this sea­son while the RailCats will play 99 be­cause of a post­poned game that was not made up. If the teams do have the same num­ber of wins by the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Gary will be given the play­off spot based on hav­ing a 6-1 record in head-to-head games vs. the Gold­eyes this sea­son.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Start­ing pitcher Chris Salamida pre­sides on the mound early Wed­nes­day evening.

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