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The Central Hardin Bruins shook up their lineup once again, but another change they made helped spark their offense.
The Bruins changed their approach at the plate, being more selective when they swing and it paid big dividends in an 8-1 victory over the John Hardin Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in a 17th District game at Central Park.
“We trust Coach (Todd Thompson) to do the lineup,” said Central Hardin senior Dillon Glenn, who went 2-for-3 with a triple. “You just deal with it and you like it. I think we had a new mindset. We were more aggressive. We’ve been watching too many fastballs and swinging at bad pitches. We swung the bats well today.”
Thompson moved sophomore Justin Rouse to the leadoff spot, where he began the season, after last Thursday’s loss to Elizabethtown. Senior Troy Riggs moved from fourth to third and Glenn batted clean-up.
The middle of the order was jumbled with the loss of junior Britton Elmore, who is out with an Achilles strain. Thompson is hopeful Elmore will be able to return this week.
“I think we were pressing a little bit at the beginning of the game,” Thompson said. “Dillon got that hit (in the fourth) and I think everyone just relaxed and played baseball like they should. Hitting is contagious and that seemed to get us going.”
With the win, Central Hardin (17-8, 6-2 district) locked up the district tournament’s No. 2 seed. The Bruins had an outside shot at the top seed if there was a three-way tie for first place, but Elizabethtown beat North Hardin, 13-1 on Saturday to clinch the No. 1 seed. North Hardin will be the third seed.
Meanwhile, John Hardin (12-14, 2-6) already knew its district fate as the Bulldogs will be the fourth seed. They were upset minded, but Central Hardin used a five-run fourth inning to squash those hopes.
“There was one out with the bases loaded (in the fourth inning) and we had our infield in,” John Hardin coach Greg Gumm said. “They get a hit between first and second and then another hit. They put the ball in play. They were the better team today.”
Leading 2-1, Glenn led off the bottom of the fourth with a triple off the fence in right field. Sophomores Ean Barker and Xavier Arnette drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Sophomore Ben Heideman, who came in batting just .203, hit a two-run single to right through the drawn in infield, and then senior pinch-hitter Isaac VanMeter ripped a two-run single to left.
“I have an advantage coming in because we have two lefties in the lineup in Brandt (Pawley) and Xavier,” VanMeter said. “I’ll watch how they pitch them, so I know what to expect when I come up. You can’t think in those situations, but do what you do and stay within yourself.”
The rally continued when senior Bart Herrin reached on a bunt single and Rouse singled sharply to left field to load the bases. VanMeter capped the inning by scoring on a wild pitch to build a 7-2 lead.
“Hats off to John Hardin because they played well, but we finally got some wiggle room that inning and gave Spencer (Lucas) some run support,” VanMeter said.
That was more than enough for Lucas, who limited John Hardin to three hits and one walk in six innings. He struck out eight in his first start in seven days.
“I was off a little bit at first,” Lucas said. “I was off in that inning where I gave up the run, but after that, I kept it around the zone and kept throwing strikes. Not pitching against a batter for a week might have been part of it, but I had to start throwing strikes.”
Central Hardin took a 1-0 lead in the first on Riggs’ sacrifice fly to score Pawley, but John Hardin tied it in the third on senior Lavonte Wilson’s RBI single.
But the Bruins responded in the bottom half of the inning. After reaching on a fielder’s choice, Rouse stole second, and two John Hardin throwing errors on the steal allowed Rouse to score before the Bruins exploded the next inning.
“We were hitting fastballs,” Glenn said. “We were hitting pitches when we were up in the count. We’ve been getting down in the count and swinging at what the pitcher wants us to. We were more aggressive and it paid off.”
CENTRAL HARDIN8, JOHN HaRDIN 1
R H E
John Hardin 001 000 0 1 3 3
Central Hardin 101 501 x 8 8 1
Darian Pope, Dajour Strong (4), Landon Sisk (6), Lavonte Wilson (6) and Dale Gumm. Spencer Lucas, Tyler Woodrum (7) and Dillon Goodman. WP: Lucas (6-1). LP: Pope (1-2). 3B: Dillon Glenn (CH).
UP NEXT: Central Hardin hosts Adair County at 6:30 p.m. Monday. John Hardin hosts LaRue County at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.