Groton - Amateur coaches will go to great lengths to motivate players. They may show them an inspiring movie before a big game, or treat them to pizza after a big win.
The Fitch High School baseball team's reward is catnip.
"You have to go crazy; you have to go get it," coach Marc Peluso said Wednesday night after the Falcons edged East Lyme, 2-0, in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division game. "(The catnip) is just one way we've tried to pick it up a little bit."
The win, coupled with Norwich Free Academy beating Waterford earlier Wednesday, gave Fitch (12-2, 5-1) sole possession of first place in the division.
East Lyme is 9-5, 3-3.
Let the record show that Falcons senior Gage Weber earned the 'nip. He singled to start a rally. The rightfielder also raced almost to the scoreboard to catch a pop-up out of play and dove face first to try and get it.
Weber didn't make the catch, but still showed the desire that Peluso wants out of his team. The sixth-year coach made sure to single out Weber during the team's postgame chat. … and gave him a fresh batch of catnip.
Peluso said he doesn't go for the motivational gimmicks some coaches use. He's not too sure why he thought of catnip (he doesn't even have a cat), but thought the herb was a good way to exemplify the style of play he wanted from his team.
"It's (about) the team and how they've approached it from where we were the first week, two weeks (of the season)," Peluso said. "And they've bought into it and they've started to play as a team. Pick each other up. That's how you win.
"The talent is great, but talent alone does not win. You need to have team chemistry, especially in high school."
Izzy Davila did his part to help Fitch. The senior pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"My changeup needs a little work, but for the most part, I was spotting my fastball really good," Davila said. "I was getting my curveball over for strikes, too. I felt pretty good. This year has been a good year, but today probably was one of my top two starts of the four."
Weber gave Fitch a boost when he singled with one out in the third inning. It was the Falcons' first hit of the game. UConn-bound senior Aaron Hill walked with two outs and went to second base on a wild pitch.
Senior Tristan Hurley followed with a two-run single that dropped between three East Lyme players in shallow centerfield.
Vikings senior Jordan Bartlett pitched well enough to win. He pitched a four-hitter with three strikeouts and a walk.
"He pitched a great game against them last game," Vikings coach Jack Biggs said. "He gave up four unearned runs that game (in a 4-1 loss on April 9).
"He pitched a great game tonight. One bloop, two-out hit (was the difference). That was a great high school baseball game. Both teams played well. Both pitchers went at it. That's how it should be."