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By CHUCK JONES
ELIZABETHTOWN — Heading into the baseball season, the Elizabethtown Panthers and Central Hardin Bruins were labeled the co-favorites by the coaches in the 17th District race.
And that’s the way it has played out so far.
Today’s game between the two teams could decide the No. 1 seed for the upcoming postseason district tournament. The game is at 5:30 p.m. at Panther Baseball Park. Central Hardin (14-7 overall) is 6-0 in district play, while Elizabethtown (16-7) is 3-1 in district action with the only loss coming to the Bruins earlier in the season.
John Hardin sits in third place at 3-2 followed by North Hardin at 1-4 and Fort Knox at 0-6.
If Central Hardin wins, the Bruins lock up the top seed. If Elizabethtown wins, the Panthers are in the driver’s seat, but they still have remaining games with John Hardin, North Hardin and Fort Knox next week. Central Hardin’s only district game left is against John Hardin.
“Certainly, you want to win every time you play,” Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson said. “In the overall seeding, being the one (seed) is nice. But I try not to emphasize one game too much.”
That is the same approach Elizabethtown coach Don Pitts is taking.
“This is not a do-or-die (game) or a must-win game,” Pitts said. “It’s more important to play well. We’re getting to the first of May and you want to start playing better baseball at this point. I’m more concerned with us playing well than winning or losing.”
The coaches aren’t looking ahead to the district tournament because seeds matter little during the postseason.
“There isn’t really a difference,” Thompson said of being the one or two seed. “In this district anybody is capable of beating anyone at anytime, especially this year.”
The Bruins figure to send junior Cody Alvey to the mound with senior Joe Nash and junior Anthony Thorn available in the bullpen. Elizabethtown counters with senior Sean Bouthilette, the University of Kentucky signee, while senior Ryan Lutz will be available in relief.
Both teams have been playing well as of late.
Central Hardin has won nine of its last 11 with the only two losses coming in the Louisville Invitational Tournament this past weekend.
“I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve been playing,” Thompson said. “We still have to grow and get better in some areas. Every team is going to have their ups and downs. But they have a relaxed attitude. They don’t get too high when they win or too low when they lose. That’s the sign of a veteran ballclub.”
Since losing to Central Hardin on April 15, Elizabethtown has won seven of its last 10 games with two of the losses coming in the LIT.
“I think we started playing better once our offense started warming up,” Pitts said. “I think guys have figured out their roles. We still have some potential question marks, but we have 10 or 12 games left to figure this out. Everything’s developing. Tomorrow night will have a big impact on seeding, but you’re building toward the end of the season.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at 505-1759