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The Central Hardin Bruins picked the right time to get their bats on track.
The second-seeded Bruins pounded out 15 hits, including two doubles and two triples, on their way to a convincing 16-3 rout of the N third-seeded North Hardin Trojans on Tuesday night in the 17th District Baseball Tournament semifinals at Ron Myers Field.
“I like it when we hit like that, knowing you’re going to have the chance to score runs every inning,” said Central Hardin sophomore Ean Barker, who went 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBIs. “We hit it like we know we can.”
The Bruins advance to their eighth consecutive district final, where they meet the top-seeded Elizabethtown Panthers at 7:30 tonight. The teams split their regular-season series.
Seniors Troy Riggs and Dillon Glenn and sophomores Justin Rouse and Ben Heideman all collected two hits. Senior Isaac VanMeter came off the bench with a two-run single. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.
Asked where this offensive team has been this season, senior Troy Riggs didn’t have an answer.
“If I knew, I’d tell you,” Riggs said.
Expecting to see North Hardin sophomore left-hander Justin Davis, former Bruin and left-hander Ryan Squires threw batting practice the last couple of days.
“I think it helped a bunch,” Riggs said. “It might not be the same arm action, but we were able to see a lefty. Seeing him a couple times probably helped too. We have spent the last week and half working toward this.”
Although senior Spencer Lucas wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, the Bruins weathered the storm by relying on their offense.
“I’m glad it got here when it did,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “It’s definitely one of the best games we’ve had. They were ready to go and they competed. They bought into what we were trying to do.
“If you win every inning, you’ll win the ballgame,” he added.
North Hardin turned to its bullpen early, going to junior Lance Baker in the first and senior Graham Mathews in the fourth, but the result was the same.
“They hit it really well,” North Hardin coach Ace Adcock said. “You have to give them credit. They scored a lot of those runs with two outs. We couldn’t seem to get an out when we needed it. One through nine, they all hit it well.”
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the first, taking a page from Central Hardin’s book and playing small ball. Sophomore A.J. Morales was hit by a pitch, stole second and moved to third on junior Blake Yates’ bunt single. Mathews laid down a sacrifice bunt, which allowed Morales to score.
The problem was the Bruins answered in resounding fashion. Rouse walked, and after an out, Riggs singled to left. After a wild pitch, junior Britton Elmore ripped a triple to left out of the reach of a diving Sy Ogden.
Barker laced an RBI single to left and then Heideman reached on a bunt single. After an out, senior Dillon Goodman hit a sharp shot to center. Morales made an unsuccessful diving attempt and the ball rolled to the fence, giving Goodman a two-run triple and the Bruins a 5-1 lead.
“It was huge to have an inning like that,” Elmore said. “It showed them we weren’t going to lay down. We were going to come back. It raised the intensity and everyone started hitting.”
North Hardin was able to get a run back in the second, but it could have worse for the Bruins. Ogden and Baker walked and sophomore Justin Davis singled to left to load the bases. Morales walked to force in a run, but Lucas struck out the next two to get out of the jam.
Central Hardin picked up where it left off in the first. Rouse and Glenn had back-to-back singles and then Riggs delivered a two-run double to left. Elmore was hit by a pitch and Barker singled sharply to center to load the bases. Riggs scored on a wild pitch to give the Bruins an 8-2 lead.
The Trojans scored for the third consecutive inning to get within 8-3. Junior Markus Bell walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a grounder and scored on Ogden’s single to left. But they squandered another golden opportunity, leaving the bases loaded for the second straight inning. Central Hardin junior Seth Givan, who earned the win, came in to record a strikeout and induce a fly to center to end the threat.
“If you told me we’d have three runs through four innings, I thought we’d be in good shape,” Adcock said. “We had some chances and didn’t score. That was really tough. We could have played some small ball, but we needed more than one or two runs. We could never get that big hit.”
Once again, though, the Bruins had an answer. With the bases loaded and two outs, VanMeter came though with a two-run single to center and sophomore Brandt Pawley followed with an RBI single to stretch the lead to 11-3.
Central Hardin’s hit barrage continued in the fourth. With two outs, Rouse and Glenn had consecutive singles, Riggs walked and Elmore was hit by a pitch to force in Rouse. Barker ripped a three-double to right and then scored on Heideman’s single to right to build a 16-3 lead.
“He just hit the guy before me, so I was looking for a fastball in the zone,” Barker said of the double. “I was trying to be aggressive and hit it hard somewhere.”
CENTRAL HARDIN 16, NORTH HARDIN 3
R H E
North Hardin 111 00 3 4 0
Central Hardin 533 5x 16 15 1
Justin Davis, Lance Baker (1), Graham Mathews (4) and Mathews, A.J. Morales (4). Spencer Lucas, Seth Givan (3) and Dillon Goodman. WP: Givan (4-1). LP: Davis (2-6). 2B: Troy Riggs (CH), Ean Barker (CH). 3B: Britton Elmore (CH), Dillon Goodman (CH).
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or email@example.com.