Owls enter crucial stretch

Jul. 25, 2014 @ 11:28 AM

Next week could prove pivotal for the Forest City Owls as they enter the last full week of the regular season.

Following Wednesday night’s 5-4 loss at High Point-Thomasville, the Owls have lost five of their last six but still have a good playoff position.

Overall, the Owls are 24-21 and are third in the Coastal Plain Western Division, four games behind Gastonia and seven back of Florence.

Asheboro is just three games back of Forest City in fourth with High Point-Thomasville just a game behind Asheboro in fifth. Florence sits atop the Western Division but has already clinched a spot in the playoffs after winning the first-half title.

“Baseball is a sport where you never know what is going to happen” said Owls’ manager Andrew Ciencin. “I don’t want the guys worried about where other teams are.”

With the top four teams in each division making the playoffs, the remaining nine games of the regular season can make or break the Owls’ chances.

The Owls start the stretch Friday night at McNair Field against Fayetteville. The SwampDogs are also struggling for playoff positioning as they are three games back of the fourth and final spot in the East.

Friday will mark the first time the two teams have met this season. Fayetteville features Jason Blum, who is fourth in the CPL with 32 runs scored.

Steven Pallares leads the Owls with a .370 batting average — third-best in the league. Pallares is third in the league with 22 stolen bases on 28 attempts.

Hunter Bryant is third in the CPL with six home runs and leads the league in total bases with 76.

Forest City opens a two-game road trip at Gastonia Saturday. The Grizzlies have had Forest City’s number this season, taking 10 of the 14 meetings including a double-header sweep on July 18.

On Monday, Forest City will travel to Columbia to face the Blowfish. Columbia is just four games back of the Owls and one back of the fourth and final playoff spot held by Asheboro.

But, Ciencin is not the least bit concerned about any other team but Forest City.

“You can’t worry about anyone else in baseball because that’s when you start making mistakes,” Ciencin said.

Looking at the Owls, Ciencin said the baseball has not been the best over the course of the last five games.

“We’ve been sloppy of late and we have to play better baseball,” Ciencin said.

As for the playoffs, Forest City controls its own destiny as they sit in one of the Western Division spots. However, even Ciencin knows that can change quickly.

“We just have to do what we can do and play our game,” Ciencin said.