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OPINION: Bruins keep climbing ladder of success (6/8)

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By Chuck Jones

LOUISVILLE — The Central Hardin baseball program keeps climbing the ladder of success. In 2005, the Bruins made their first 5th Region appearance under third-year coach Todd Thompson and only their fourth trip overall in school history, but they lost a 9-8 heartbreaker to Nelson County in the first round of the tournament. After sliding down a rung in 2006 when injuries rocked the Central Hardin pitching staff and the team failed to make it out of the 17th District Tournament, the Bruins bounced back last season to win a school-record 23 games and reach the region championship game for the first time since 1994. This season, Central Hardin continued its ascent up the ladder, winning the school’s first region title in baseball and advancing to the round of 16, where the Bruins were swept by Christian Academy of Louisville in the best-of-three Semi-State 3 series. “It’s a learning process,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “I learned something from being here; the boys learned something from getting to this point. We all learned something. Now when we make it back to this point, nothing will be new. We can just keep on trucking.” A team must get to a certain point before it learns how to win. It’s that way in nearly all sports. Look how long it took the Indianapolis Colts to get over the hump. Or the Boston Red Sox. Although the program is 18 years old, the Bruins are still learning new things. Winning is one those things. And most times, it’s the hardest lesson to learn. “We’ve changed a lot about the program,” Central Hardin senior Erik Stein said. “No one has had as much success as we did the last two years. We started something special, now it’s up to next year’s team to continue it.” Success breeds success, but it isn’t guaranteed. Nothing ever is. The Bruins have a strong foundation to fall back on. Players like Cody Alvey, Anthony Thorn, Ryan Hays, Daniel Linder, Kyle Nichols, Jeremy Barr, Nolan Todd and Russ Morse were key pieces of this year’s team, but will have to take on bigger roles next season. There will be no Joe Nash. No Chris Nichols. No Stein or Austin Todd. No Andrew Doughty or Matt Calloway. Nash was the ace of staff and the senior class was the backbone of the offense. In the two semi-state games, the seniors accounted for 12 of the Bruins’ 14 hits, seven of the team’s nine runs and six of Central Hardin’s eight runs batted in. “We’re going to have to hit our offense hardcore,” Alvey said. “We had a great offense at times, but it fell through at times. Chris, Erik, Joe … all of the seniors handled most of the offense. If we’re going to make it back, we’re going to have to get better offensively to pick up where they left off.” It’s been said Rome wasn’t built in a day. And that’s the case with the Central Hardin program. Previous coaches Russell Van Zant, who compiled a 112-97 record in six years with the program, and Mark Martin, who had a 98-87 record in six years, as well as countless players have had a hand – some bigger, some smaller – in getting the program to this point. Now it’s up to next year’s team and the next generation of Central Hardin players – which I’ve heard nothing but good things about – to continue the program’s progression up the ladder of success. “They’re not going to miss a beat,” said Chris Nichols, who has two brothers – Kyle and Matt – in the program. “They have great players coming back. The juniors are really good. They have great players in the freshman class and coming up. They’re not going to be down, that’s for sure.” Sounds like the Bruins could climb another rung in the near future. Maybe even next year. Chuck Jones is the sports editor for The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 505-1759 or at cjones@thenewsenterprise.com