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LOUISVILLE — Extra innings haven’t been kind to the Central Hardin Bruins this season.
The Bruins dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season, falling to host Louisville Male, 4-3 in nine innings Friday night and to Lexington Catholic, 3-2 in eight innings Saturday morning in the Louisville Invitational Tournament.
All three of Central Hardin’s losses have come in extra innings. The Bruins lost to Russell County, 2-1 in eight innings April 13. They are 1-3 in extra inning games this season.
“Hopefully, this is a valuable teacher for us,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “Sometimes losses can be good and I hope that’s the case. I hope we learn a lot from this.”
The Bruins (21-3) moved to No. 1 in the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association poll Thursday. Male (17-2) is ranked fifth, while Lexington Catholic (16-6) is eighth. Central Hardin held a lead in both games, but couldn’t hold onto it.
“We could have won both of them,” Central Hardin senior Alex Crowder said. “These past two games, it was a lack of execution and production. We have to be more productive. But this is a tough bunch and we’ll bounce back.”
On Saturday, the Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Alex Crowder singled sharply to right, took second on senior Troy Squires’ sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on senior Zach Ditto’s grounder and scored on a wild pitch.
Central Hardin stretched the lead to 2-0 when sophomore Britton Elmore ripped a triple down the right-field line and came home on Squires’ RBI single.
Lexington Catholic scored a run in the fourth on Ben Coates’ run-scoring single and tied it in the fifth when Griffin Neuer drew a bases loaded walk.
The Bruins appeared to take a lead in the sixth. With one out, senior Drew Harrington smacked a double down the right-field line and freshman Ben Heideman, Harrington’s pinch runner, went to third when junior Troy Riggs reached on an error. Freshman Justin Rouse laid down a bunt and Heideman got caught in a rundown before crossing home plate. Signaled safe initially, the call was reversed after the home plate umpire consulted with the umpire in the field.
The call proved costly as Conner O’Neil delivered a game-winning RBI single in the eighth after an error opened the door for the Knights.
“It was just a lack of execution,” Squires said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort. We just didn’t execute.”
Sophomore Luke McCamish took the loss, allowing one hit and one unearned run. He struck out five in three relief innings. Junior Josh Krupinski gave up six hits and two runs – one earned – in five innings.
On Friday night, the Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the third on run-scoring singles by Harrington and Riggs and an RBI double by Rouse.
After the Bulldogs cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom half of the inning, Male rallied in the seventh for two runs. Spencer Jackson had an RBI single and an error allowed the other run to score.
Male won it in the ninth on Daniel McFarland’s RBI single after the Bruins made another error to start the inning.
The Bruins wasted a solid outing from junior Spencer Lucas, who worked six-plus innings. He allowed six hits, three runs – two earned – and struck out four. Squires took the loss, striking out two in 2 2/3 innings.
“Spencer threw a whale of a game and I’m tickled with how Troy pitched,” Thompson said. “It was a tough situation to bring Troy in to.
“We had good pitching,” he added. “Josh wasn’t as sharp, but he’s been sick the last few days. I thought he got better and Luke did a good job. We just didn’t make adjustments at the plate. We have to make something happen (offensively).”
The Bruins strayed from the formula which has made them so successful. Although they had good pitching, they didn’t do enough with the bats and their defense, which has been solid this season, made costly errors.
“It all comes down to execution,” Harrington said. “It’s as simple as that. We need to do things like move guys over and have productive outs. We have to make plays with the glove. We have to find that formula because we were a little shaky.”
LOUISVILLE MALE 4, Central HARDIN 3
R H E
Central Hardin 003 000000 3 8 2
Male 001 000201 4 9 0
Spencer Lucas, Troy Squires (7) and Gabe Hogan. T.J. Snead, Justin Linares (9) and Chris Allen. WP: Linares. LP: Squires (1-2). 2B: Justin Rouse (CH), Spencer Jackson (M). 3B: Brandon Gatz (M).
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC 3, Central HARDIN 2
R H E
Lexington Cath. 000 110 01 3 7 2
Central Hardin 101 000 00 2 6 2
Griffin Neuer, Tom Banahan (8) and Chase Boling. Josh Krupinski, Luke McCamish (6) and Gabe Hogan. WP: Neuer. LP: McCamish (0-1). S: Banahan. 2B: Boling (LC), Drew Harrington (CH). 3B: Britton Elmore (CH).
UP NEXT: Central Hardin hosts Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.