Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fish thriving on drive

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

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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 wild-card 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 wild-card 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."

TIEBREAKER ALERT: 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.

kyle.jahns@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2013 D5

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