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PREP BASEBALL: Central blanks North for fifth straight title (5/23)

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By Chuck Jones

The Golden Rule says do unto others as you would have them do unto you, so the Central Hardin Bruins did exactly to North Hardin what the Trojans did to Elizabethtown the night before.

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The Bruins jumped out to a five-run lead in the first inning and cruised to an 8-0 victory over the Trojans for their fifth consecutive 17th District Baseball Tournament championship Wednesday evening at Central Park.

“It’s a big honor to be a part of all five of them and I’m sure it will mean more down the road,” said Central Hardin senior Troy Squires, who went 2-for-3 with two runs. “We came out focused and got the job done. This is just a small bit in the big picture. Next week is more important. We can’t overlook anyone. We need to take it one game at a time like we did this week.”

On Tuesday night, North Hardin scored two runs in the first inning and added three more in the fifth to build a 5-0 lead before recording a 5-1 win in the semifinals.

Both teams advance to next week’s 5th Region Baseball Tournament, which will be held at North Hardin’s James R. Aldridge Field. The tournament begins Monday with four quarterfinals. The pairings will be determined at Saturday morning’s draw.

Central Hardin (29-5) took the drama out of this game after its first at-bat, sending nine batters to the plate. Juniors Troy Riggs and Isaac VanMeter each drove in two runs to break the game open. The Bruins scored 18 runs in two games.

“It’s huge,” VanMeter said of the start. “We’ve struggled in the past week. We didn’t hit the ball well against Meade County and then again against (Louisville DuPont) Manual. We worked hard and we were pumped up to win a championship again. Hitting the ball like this is huge for us. I’m happy for our seniors. This is an amazing feeling.”

Getting five runs for senior Drew Harrington was more than enough. The left-hander had only given up five runs all season, so it was an uphill battle for the Trojans the rest of the night.

Harrington limited the Trojans to two singles and one hit batter to earn the complete-game win. He struck out nine, the first time he hasn’t reached double digits in a start this season.

“It was a good start,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “It lets the pitcher relax and go throw strikes. That’s what Drew did. He did exactly what you want. He threw strikes and let his defense make plays. I’m very proud of Drew.”

This was Central Hardin’s 18th shutout of the season, which is the second-most in a single season in KHSAA history. It was the seventh time in nine games an opponent has failed to score. Louisville Ballard holds the record with 20 in 2001.

“With a pitcher like Drew, it’s tough to come back,” North Hardin junior Graham Mathews said. “We fell behind early and it made it tough. But we just have to get prepared for region play. We have to play with a lot of heart because it’s win or go home.”

In the bottom of the first, Squires singled to center to open the inning, but with two outs, Harrington and senior Alex Crowder drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Riggs laced a two-run single up the middle, sophomore Britton Elmore reached on an error to score Crowder and VanMeter followed with a two-run double down the left-field line.

“I was a little jammed, but I was just trying to do a good job,” Riggs said. “I was just trying to get us some runs on the board. It’s big when we get on top because that allows Drew to do what he does.”

But the Trojans threatened in the bottom half of the inning. Mathews and freshman A.J. Morales had consecutive singles and sophomore Lance Baker reached on an error to load the bases. But Harrington got a grounder back to him to force out the lead runner at the plate before striking out the next two.

“They swing the bats well and they got a couple of hits and then Lance had a good bunt,” Harrington said. “Coach (Demond) Thomas called the pitches and I just tried to put it where he called it. I think maybe I was too pumped up after scoring five runs. I think I was too excited. I won’t do anything like that again.”

North Hardin coach Ace Adcock knew the wasted opportunity might come back to haunt the Trojans.

“We felt like the first two or three innings were very important,” Adcock said. “They scored all five runs with two out. They came through in some tough spots. That set the tone for the rest of the game. Then we don’t score in the second. If we can scratch out one or two runs, we answer. It’s damage control. But credit Andrew for getting out of that. That’s what good pitchers do.”

The Bruins tacked on a run in the fourth on Ditto’s RBI single and two more in the sixth when Ditto had a sacrifice fly and Harrington a run-scoring single.

Harrington did the rest. After the second inning, North Hardin only had two base runners – one in the fourth and another in the sixth – but the Bruins erased the threat in the fourth with a double play.

“This has been awesome and it seems to get better every year,” Harrington said of the district title. “It’s been special to be a part of something this big. It’s really good to go into the region as a district champion. We’re looking forward to next week.”

CENTRAL HARDIN 8, NORTH HARDIN 0

                                              R  H  E

North Hardin      000   000    0    0  2  1

Central Hardin    500   102     x    810  2

Lance Baker, Sy Ogden (6) and Graham Mathews. Drew Harrington and Gabe Hogan. WP: Harrington (8-1).LP: Baker (6-3). 2B: Isaac VanMeter (CH). SB: Troy Squires (CH) 2, Trenton Parrett (CH) 2, Ben Heideman (CH).

Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.