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PREP BASEBALL: Central Hardin's Nash voted Player of the Year (06/16)

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By Chuck Jones

 

By CHUCK JONES cjones@thenewsenterprise.com CECILIA – Coming off a breakout junior season, Central Hardin senior Joe Nash’s personality wouldn’t let him rest on his laurels. Sure, Nash had established himself as the ace of the Central Hardin pitching staff. He was coming off a season in which he posted a 7-1 record with a 0.82 earned run average. As soon as the Bruins fell to the Elizabethtown Panthers in the 2007 5th Region Tournament championship game, though, Nash went back to work. Nash spent countless hours at The Players Dugout, making four to five trips a week to the indoor baseball facility. He worked on his pitching mechanics, trying to perfect the four different pitches in his arsenal. He stood in the batting cages, taking swing after swing after a sub-par year at the plate. He took core training classes, strengthening his body. Every ounce of energy Nash had was poured into his craft. He sunk his heart and soul into every workout. Through every drop of perspiration came more motivation. “Last year did come out of nowhere, so I knew I had to work even harder,” Nash said. “I had to hit my spots even better. I need to thank Coach (Joe) Newton for all the work he put into me. I wanted to match what I did last year.” Did he say match? No, Nash not only surpassed what he accomplished as a junior, but he smashed it and along with it set a couple of records. That was more than enough to earn Nash Area Player of the Year honors, upstaging Elizabethtown senior Sean Bouthilette and LaRue County senior Aaron Mayfield. “I don’t think I beat them out,” Nash said. “Sean and Aaron had exceptional years. I had a great year and it feels good to win. It’s something I’ve worked for and it shows all the hard work pays off. It’s a great honor.” Nash was selected as the Area Player of the Year by the seven area coaches and the four-member The News-Enterprise sports staff in one of the closest votes ever. Voting was done on a 5-3-1 scale and coaches couldn’t vote for their own players. Nash totaled 34 points and received four of the possible 10 first-place votes. Bouthilette finished second with 31 points, garnering four first-place votes as well. Mayfield, who received the other three first-place votes, was third with 30 points. “He is very motivated and he’s very dedicated,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “He’s inspired to do well. He wasn’t going to settle for anything less than the best. He spent countless hours at The Players Dugout. I remember one of his preseason goals was to not lose what he gained in the offseason.” Nash didn’t. Nash posted a 10-2 record with a 0.71 earned run average. He beat three of the four 17th District teams he faced. The 10 wins broke Central Hardin’s previous mark of eight set by Mike Hasty. “It’s a good thing to accomplish,” Nash said. “But it’s an individual stat and I focus more on team stats.” One record wasn’t enough for Nash, though. He opened the season with 50 2/3 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run. Campbellsville scored an earned run in the first inning in the 5th Region Tournament quarterfinals to break the streak. The streak was 57 innings dating back to last season, which ties a KHSAA record. His five shutouts this season tied him for sixth on the KHSAA’s single-season list. “It was always in the back of my mind, but I knew it was going to happen sooner or later,” Nash said. “I’m more happy about the 10 wins. I wish I would have got the 11th. It’s nice to have a school record.” In 68 2/3 innings, Nash allowed only 37 hits, 14 walks and 14 runs – seven earned. He limited opponents to a paltry .149 batting average. Nash registered 98 strikeouts, including four double-digit performances. In 13 games, he gave up four hits or less 12 times. “I’ve never had a pitcher like Joe,” Thompson said. “His understanding of pitching is excellent and he works well with (assistant) coach (Demond) Thomas. Coach Thomas has his way of calling a game and Joe executed that game plan every time. It was one fine season.” And not just on the mound. After a disappointing junior season at the plate where he batted just .167, Nash bounced back to hit .396 with four doubles and one triple. He scored 25 times and drove in 17 runs. He also stole four bases. “Before the season, I changed my mental approach,” Nash said. “This year, I would forget about making outs. Last year, I would take it to the field with me when I would make outs. This year, I would just focus on trying to get a hit. It was a better mental approach that helped me.” Thompson wasn’t surprised by Nash’s performance at the plate. “Baseball is so mental,” Thompson said. “His junior year nothing seemed to go his way. All you need is to get a blooper to fall in for a hit. That happens a lot to get a player going. He got stronger in the offseason and I think that helped him a lot this year.” Of all the things Nash, who is going to pitch for Centre College next season, accomplished this season and the previous year, none of it compares to helping the Bruins win their first region championship. “Our goal was to win the region championship,” Nash said. “It was better than what I expected. The region championship game … I won’t forget it. It was very fulfilling. But I’m definitely looking forward to my new challenge.” Doesn’t sound like Nash will be taking any time off soon. Chuck Jones can be reached at 505-1759