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The LaRue County Hawks had a bad case of the first-game jitters, while North Hardin sophomore Lance Baker looked right at home in his second start on the mound this season.
Baker baffled the Hawks for five innings and the visiting Trojans capitalized on several LaRue County mistakes to earn a 3-1 victory in a matchup of 5th Region teams Tuesday evening.
“I felt like I was less nervous this game than the first one,” Baker said. “The first game can get you. I felt excited to get the opportunity to pitch. I felt like all my pitches were working. I think I was just less nervous.”
While Baker was in complete command, the butterflies the Hawks had playing their season opener showed. They made six errors in the first four innings, leading to all of North Hardin’s runs.
“We’ve got an inexperienced team,” said LaRue County coach Eric Allen, who made his debut. “We only have one returning player from last year. I think we had some jitters early. We saw that in our scrimmage Saturday and it hurt us here tonight.”
The Hawks returned only two starters — only one was in the field Tuesday — from last year’s 29-10 team, which reached the region final. Junior Austin McDowell started at shortstop and senior Cole Hughes was the designated hitter.
The much-more experienced Trojans (2-1) took advantage of LaRue County’s youth.
Baker limited LaRue County to two hits and five walks, while striking out four. Sophomore Javier Echevarria tossed two scoreless innings, registering three strikeouts.
“Lance threw it really well,” North Hardin coach Ace Adcock said. “I think last year was a good experience for him. He’s a completely differently pitcher this year.”
North Hardin’s defense was solid behind Baker, making only one error which led to LaRue County’s only run.
“I love my defense,” Baker said. “Without a good defense, a pitcher is nothing. They played well.”
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when senior Jamaal Wilson walked, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Echevarria reached on an infield single to drive in Wilson.
LaRue County answered in the bottom half of the inning. Hughes reached on a throwing error with two outs and senior Jordan McGaw followed with a triple to left field after A.J. Moralles missed trying to make a diving catch.
North Hardin senior Jordan Sanchez started the fourth inning with a double down the left field line. The Hawks made a throwing error on sophomore Blake Yates’ sacrifice bunt to allow Sanchez to score. With two outs, Shae Krupinski walked and scored when Wilson’s fly ball to center was dropped.
The Hawks never were able to threaten after that, getting only four walks the final four innings.
“I don’t expect offenses to be good with the late winter we’ve had,” Allen said. “I don’t think many teams were able to get outdoors and face live pitching. The hitting will come. I thought we put the ball in play. We have to get better moving base runners and we have to get better defensively.”
Allen was encouraged with McGaw’s first start. He struck out four and held the Trojans to three hits and four walks. All three runs were unearned. Freshman Colby Skaggs struck out three in two scoreless innings.
Although Adcock was pleased to get the win, he said the Trojans need to work on some things. They had two players thrown out on base running blunders and left seven on base.
“We had bases loaded one inning and didn’t score,” Adcock said. “We had a runner picked off third. We ran ourselves out of some big innings. We have a lot of new faces, so there’s going to be a learning curve. But I think we can be a good defensive team. If we can pitch it and glove it, I think we can be a good team.”
NORTH HARDIN 3, LaRUE COUNTY 1
R H E
North Hardin 001 200 0 3 3 1
LaRue County 001 000 0 1 2 6
Lance Baker, Javier Echevarria (6) and Graham Mathews. Jordan McGaw, Colby Skaggs (6) and Koy Lindsey. WP: Baker (2-0). LP: McGaw (0-1). 2B: Jordan Sanchez (NH). 3B: McGaw (LC).
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.