PREP BASEBALL: Bruins knock off Bulldogs (5/21)

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Nash tosses one-hitter to get the win

By Chuck Jones

By CHUCK JONES cjones@thenewsenterprise.com CECILIA — The Central Hardin Bruins accomplished a first for the baseball program, and in the process, kept the John Hardin Bulldogs from their first. The Bruins jumped on the Bulldogs early, scoring four runs in the first two innings and that was more than enough for senior right-hander Joe Nash, as host Central Hardin downed John Hardin, 7-2 in the 17th District Tournament semifinals Tuesday night. The win gave Central Hardin its second consecutive berth – a first for the program – in the 5th Region Tournament, which begins next week at Marion County. This marks the third region appearance for Coach Todd Thompson, matching the school’s total prior to his tenure. “We got our ticket punched and we’re ready to go (to region),” Nash said. “Tomorrow’s a very big game, but we can come out a lot more relaxed because we know we still have a chance no matter what happens.” The Bruins (19-10) advance to the district championship game, where they’ll meet Elizabethtown today at 5:30 p.m. The two teams played for the district title last season with the Panthers posting a 6-0 win. But Central Hardin players were thinking about the bigger picture. They were focused more on the trip to region after reaching the championship game last season. “That’s the biggest game,” Central Hardin senior Erik Stein said. “Winning tonight’s game we know we’ve got a spot in the region tournament. We have a chance to recover from last year … a chance to redeem ourselves.” For the Bulldogs, who finished the season 13-14, the program’s first trip to the region tournament remains on hold. The Bulldogs are now 2-7 in postseason play. “We dug ourselves a hole to start out and we were unable to get out of it,” John Hardin coach Adam Lindsey said. “My hat’s off to Todd and Central Hardin. They came ready to play and did what they had to do to be successful for seven innings. “I’m proud of my seniors because they kept battling to the end,” he added. “My hope is this shows the younger players how much harder we’ve got to work to get to our final destination.” Nash admitted he wasn’t as sharp as he normally was but it was more than effective. He limited the Bulldogs to one hit – a double by senior Cody Mitchell in the top of the seventh – and three walks. Both runs were unearned. He struck out nine. “The first five innings I was doing pretty well, but I got a little tired in the last two innings and I started missing my spots,” Nash said. “I never got a good feel with my footing from the stretch, but other than that everything went smoothly.” The same couldn’t be said for John Hardin senior Derek Hensley, who was roughed up for nine hits, one walk, one hit batter and seven runs – four earned. He struck out four. Despite not playing since last Tuesday, the Bruins showed no signs of rust, scoring three runs in the first. Senior Chris Nichols, Stein and Nash began the game with three consecutive singles to push across one run. A walk to freshman Russ Morse sandwiched around two outs loaded the bases and sophomore Nolan Todd forced in a run when he was hit by pitch. Matt Calloway, Nash’s courtesy runner, scored on a wild pitch to cap the inning. “It was nice starting off the game like that,” Stein said. “We hit the ball well. We were concerned being off for that many days, but the way we hit the ball, it wasn’t that much of a concern.” Central Hardin added a run in the second. Senior Andrew Doughty singled, stole second and third and came in on an error to lift the Bruins to a 4-0 lead. The Bruins went up 7-0 in the fifth. Stein singled to center and moved to third when Nash singled to left. A balk on Hensley scored Stein. Sophomore Jeremy Barr smacked a double to right-center field to bring in Calloway, who was running for Nash. After a wild pitch, Morse lofted a single to right to bring in Barr. “I thought we stayed pretty consistent throughout the game,” Thompson said. “As a coach, you’d like to score 10 runs every inning. But I thought we hit the ball well. I’m pretty pleased with that aspect. We hadn’t played since last Tuesday. I think they were itching and ready to play.” John Hardin finally broke through in the sixth, cutting the lead to 6-2. Freshman Paul Pickerrell walked and stole second. With two outs, junior Caleb Mitchell reached on an infield error to score Pickerrell. Mitchell stole second and went to third when the throw went into the outfield. After a walk to Nick Daniels, Mitchell came home when senior Josh Burris intentionally got caught in a rundown. CENTRAL HARDIN 7, JOHN HARDIN 2                                                 R H E John Hardin             000   002 0 2 1 2 Central Hardin          310   030   x 7 10 4 Derek Hensley, Tyler Burnett (5) and Paul Pickerrell. Joe Nash and Jeremy Barr. WP: Nash. LP: Hensley. 2B: Cody Mitchell (JH), Jeremy Barr (CH). Chuck Jones can be reached at 505-1759