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The Central Hardin Bruins made the most of their scoring chances Tuesday evening on Ron Myers Field at Panther Baseball Park.
The Elizabethtown Panthers couldn’t say the same.
The Bruins came through with clutch hits time and time again with runners in scoring position to knock off Elizabethtown, 12-5 in 17th District play.
“That was pretty big for us,” said Central Hardin sophomore Justin Rouse, who went 1-for-3 with three RBIs. “We haven’t been very good at that this season. The coaches have made an emphasis on that in practice and we’ve gone over that several times. I think that paid off tonight.”
It was hard to tell that had been a problem for Central Hardin, which went 7-for-17 (.412) with runners in scoring position. The hits produced seven runs and four of those came with two outs.
“Those were huge,” said Central Hardin senior Troy Riggs, who was 1-for-3 with a run and two RBIs. “They came at important times. You know when you play E’town they are going to put up a fight, so we had to stay focused and get big hits to win this game.”
The Bruins (5-5) broke out of a funk after losing three of their previous four games, including suffering a 1-0 loss to North Hardin in their district opener.
“I think this will give us a big boost,” said Central Hardin senior Spencer Lucas, who earned the win. “It’s a district game against our rival. I think this win can get us back on track.”
Meanwhile, Elizabethtown (7-3, 1-1 district) didn’t have trouble getting on base, but went 4-for-17 (.235) with runners in scoring position. The Panthers stranded 11 on base and had three runners thrown out on the bases.
“We didn’t play well,” Elizabethtown coach Don Pitts said. “For the first time this year, we didn’t pitch real well. The difference in the game was when we gave them chances, they made us pay. They gave us chances, but we never made them pay. They found some gaps and scored every chance they had.”
Lucas wasn’t particularly sharp, allowing seven hits and six walks in 5 2/3 innings. But what the right-hander did well was get out of jams and limit the damage, holding the Panthers to two runs as Elizabethtown left eight on base the first three innings.
“I kept trying to get an out and get out of each inning,” Lucas said. “I have a good defense playing behind me. I just tried to get a ground ball and get out of each inning.”
Central Hardin’s defense was flawless besides a throwing error in the third inning which opened the door for a Panther run. Elizabethtown wasn’t as solid in the field, making four errors which led to four unearned runs.
“Defense is where it’s at,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “We played solid defense for the most part. We still have some work to do on defense, but we’re getting better.”
No more was that more evident than at the plate. In the top of the second, sophomore Ean Barker and senior Dillon Goodman delivered run-scoring singles, and a throwing error allowed Central Hardin to build a 3-0 lead.
“I think it was good to get off to a good start,” Barker said. “To get a rally going early and score early, that helped us build some momentum.”
The Panthers cut the lead to 3-2 after three innings. Sophomore Hunter Sullivan had an RBI single in the second, while sophomore Peyton Payne had one in the third.
But the Bruins took control in the fifth. With one out, sophomore Ben Heideman, who scored three times, and senior Isaac VanMeter walked. Rouse ripped a two-run double to left-center field and then junior Britton Elmore tripled off the left field fence to give them a 6-2 lead.
“I was looking for my pitch, something I could drive,” Rouse said. “That gave us a better advantage and swung the momentum where we kept adding on it.”
In the sixth, Central Hardin tacked on three more runs. Rouse drew a bases-loaded walk to score senior Dillon Glenn, who had a lead-off double. Riggs followed with a two-run single to left to plate sophomore Xavier Arnette, who went 2-for-3 with two runs, and Heideman.
“I was trying to get something I could hit,” Riggs said. “I had hit two fly balls to right field, so I didn’t want to fly out again. I knew the team needed me to come through with a hit.”
The Bruins built a 12-2 lead in the seventh before Elizabethtown scored three runs in the bottom of the inning, but it proved to be too little, too late.
“It was good to see the boys came through in a district game like this,” Thompson said. “We’ve talked about it lately, but talking about it and doing it on two different things. That was fantastic to see that.”
CENTRAL HARDIN 12, ELIZABETHTOWN 5
R H E
Central Hardin 030 033 3 12 8 1
Elizabethtown 011 000 3 5 8 4
Spencer Lucas, Luke McCamish (6) and Dillon Goodman. Austin Freyberger, Conner Kindred (4), Zach McKinney (6), Preston Patterson (7) and Zeke Pinkham, Jacob Pirtle (7). WP: Lucas. LP: Freyberger. 2B: Justin Rouse (CH), Dillon Glenn (CH). 3B: Britton Elmore (CH).
UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays at John Hardin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Elizabethtown hosts North Hardin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.