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The Central Hardin Bruins put together a nearly perfect game Tuesday against the Elizabethtown Panthers.
Central Hardin senior Drew Harrington was one out away from perfection, senior Zach Ditto blasted a two-run homer in his first at-bat against his former team and the Bruins rolled to a 10-0 mercy-rule victory over the visiting Panthers in a 17th District game.
“I like our chances with Drew on the mound and we hit it like that,” said Ditto, who reached base in all three plate appearances.
There’s a good reason for Ditto’s optimism.
Harrington, a University of Louisville signee, completely dominated the Panthers. He retired 14 consecutive hitters before issuing a walk to freshman Hunter Sullivan. Harrington was ahead in the count 0-2.
“I’m so mad right now,” Harrington said. “I definitely knew it. I think the whole dugout knew. I guess I was too amped up. I tried to blow it by him and I tried to be too perfect with my curveball. It didn’t happen, but I still count my blessings. I don’t deserve all this.”
It was Central Hardin’s second no-hitter in its last three games. Junior Josh Krupinski did the same against North Hardin on Saturday. The Bruins have shut out three straight opponents and five of their last six.
The hard-throwing left-hander struck out 10 of the 16 batters he faced. Only one Elizabethtown batter – senior Cannon Pender – got a ball out of the infield. Ditto, who plays second base, and Harrington both made spectacular plays in the field to keep the no-hitter intact.
“He was in control of all his pitches,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “He threw a lot of strikes. Good things are going to happen when you hit your spots like that.”
The Bruins (3-0 in district) ran their winning streak to 14 to start this season. They have won 30 consecutive games against district teams. Meanwhile, Elizabethtown (8-3, 1-1) dropped its second consecutive game after a six-game win streak.
“You have to tip your hat to Drew,” Elizabethtown coach Don Pitts said. “He had everything working and he was on top of his game. When he’s throwing like that, he’s as good as anyone in the state. I think today was a hitters’ day and they took advantage it.”
Did the Bruins ever.
Senior Alex Crowder set the tone when he laced a ball to right-center field to start the bottom of the first with a triple. After an out, Ditto smacked a two-run homer to left field.
“He just left it up and I took advantage of it,” Ditto said. “That’s what we did. We took advantage of mistakes. We were seeing it really well. We were being patient and waiting on our pitch.”
Harrington followed with a double to right, but his courtesy runner, freshman Ben Heidemann was picked off by sophomore catcher Zeke Pinkham. Junior Troy Riggs singled to right and then freshman Justin Rouse ripped a triple to center. Freshman Ean Barker followed with an RBI double and then junior Isaac VanMeter had a run-scoring single to make it 5-0.
It didn’t get any better in the second. Crowder started it off once again, this time with a home run to center field. Senior Troy Squires walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third when Harrington reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on error. Barker’s RBI single capped the inning and gave Central Hardin an 8-0 lead.
“It just happened,” Crowder said of his home run. “I’m not usually a home run hitter, but I got one there. I hit it solid and it just carried. I was just looking for a pitch to hit, much like the first time.”
The Bruins added two runs in the third on Squires’ RBI single and Crowder scored on a passed ball.
Central Hardin finished with 10 hits, including six extra-base hits. Thompson was pleased with his team’s approach at the plate, especially against a quality pitcher like Pender, who took the loss. He allowed seven hits and five earned runs in one inning.
“We came in really focused,” Harrington said. “This is a big district game and you always want to give it your best in a rivalry game like this. We were seeing the ball real well and we were aggressive. It’s a good win for us.”
CENTRAL HARDIN 10, ELIZABETHTOWN 0
R H E
Elizabethtown 000 00 0 0 4
Central Hardin 532 0x 1010 0
Cannon Pender, Preston Patterson (2), Jacob Simpson (3) and Zeke Pinkham. Drew Harrington and Gabe Hogan. WP: Harrington (3-0). LP: Pender (3-2). 2B: Ean Barker (CH), Harrington (CH). 3B: Alex Crowder (CH), Justin Rouse (CH). HR: Zach Ditto (CH), Crowder (CH).
UP NEXT: Central Hardin hosts Thomas Nelson at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Elizabethtown plays at John Hardin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.