The Williamsport Crosscutters have reached a critical point in their season. They're only 28 games into the year, but it's more than a third of the New York-Penn League season.
Manager Nelson Prada has spent his previous eight seasons managing in either short-season ball or low Class A ball where professional players are getting their first taste of a 140-game season. So he's become well acquainted with recognizing a team going through peaks and valleys with their energy levels.
Following Wednesday night's 7-3 loss to Hudson Valley, Prada explained how he can see this Crosscutters team is going through one of those energy valleys. Even after the team's first scheduled day off Tuesday, the Cutters played with little energy in Wednesday's loss, scoring just one run through the first eight innings.
"It seems like we started good, but at some point they go down because their body is adjusting to the pro game and swinging every day," Prada said. "Then they're going to get stronger and finish hard."
Adjusting to playing every day is the biggest adjustment high school and college players alike talk about when beginning their pro career. The grind of even a 76-game New York-Penn League season is nothing like most have ever experienced.
Even those who have a year or two in the system aren't used to playing every day. Gulf Coast League teams - the league below the NYPL - doesn't play games on Sundays. Even during extended spring training players are given Sundays off.
The grind of playing 27 games in the first 29 days of the season appears to have finally worn on one of the youngest teams in the NYPL. But it's nothing Prada didn't expect. It comes with this level of baseball.
The team could run on adrenaline for the first two or three weeks of the season as the college draftees were playing pro ball for the first time and last year's draftees or the Latin American players are playing under the lights for the first time.
"They played well for maybe the first three weeks, but now they're going to get tired because they've never played a month all the way through," Prada said. "Now it's all the games, the trips, getting back here at 4 in the morning and having to be ready to go at 1 on the field. And it's all days, too."
Williamsport entered Thursday night's game against Hudson Valley having lost five of its previous seven games. It was a losing streak the Cutters haven't endured since they lost four in a row after winning the season opener in June.
Prada said there's signs he can see on a daily basis, like how the bat just looks a little heavier for hitters in their hands. He and hitting coach Lino Connell and pitching coach Les Lancaster talk often about dialing back on the workload for the players when they reach this point in the season.
"We have to see that and slow it down a bit," Prada said. "Maybe we say we'll have a day off tomorrow and just come play the game. Sometimes it takes a week or 10 days for the guys to get stronger and get the swing back and get used to the professional game."