April 17, 2019North Harrison and host Crawford County came out swinging in their rivalry baseball game last Wednesday. The visiting Cougars swung hard to start the game, but the Wolfpack swung harder to finish, going on to a 13-7 win. It was the first time Crawford County had beaten North Harrison in several seasons.
"We haven't beaten them since 2011," Crawford County coach Isaac Bowles said. "A lot of people, you don't follow baseball records like you do basketball records as far as team records go, but obviously with me playing and taking over a couple of years after, we haven't beaten them since 2011, and it was here. I remember that game. I was catching. We came out and did really well in that game, and tonight I thought we came out and did the exact same thing."
"This one stings a lot probably because it's coupled with coming in Monday night (at Brownstown Central) knowing we made a couple of errors that kind of gave that one away," North Harrison coach Kevin Fessel said. "This one really stung to see the amount of errors that had occurred."
Crawford County senior Clayton Sheckells beats the ball to North Harrison's Skyler Wetzel to score in the bottom of the sixth inning in the Wolfpack's 13-7 win.
The Cougars, however, wasted no time in putting their bats to work at the start of the game. Jake Harley smacked a double to lead off and Ben Davis followed with a single to score Harley. With one out, Evan Lasley singled, scoring Davis, and North Harrison put up a 2-0 lead.
Crawford County quickly got those two back. Max Murphy got some help from a North Harrison error to take first base. Reese Sturgeon followed with a bunt single, and both advanced on a double steal with Aaron Madley at the plate. Madley then grounded out to score Murphy. Sturgeon tried for third base, but was thrown out, with Justin Deatrick making the tag. Preston Coleman followed with a double. Clayton Sauer then singled to score Coleman, and the game was tied at 2.
North Harrison had another solid inning in the second. Jadyn Martin, Dawson Howell and Zane Armstrong started by loading the bases with three straight hits. A Crawford County error allowed Harley to get on safely and courtesy runner Jake Galligan to score, keeping the bases loaded. Skyler Wetzel smacked a one-out single to score Howell and Armstrong, and the Cougars had a 5-2 lead.
Crawford County got one of those back in the bottom of the inning. Dalton Stout started with a double, and, with two outs, a single by Murphy scored Stout to cut the gap to two. Reese Sturgeon followed with a walk, but the Wolfpack failed to convert, leaving North Harrison's lead at 5-3.
"Offensively, that really wasn't our problem tonight," Fessel said. "We came up and we hit the ball. We had a couple of nice hits. We started off the game hitting the ball, and they made some plays, and that was it."
"I kept telling (pitcher) Noah (Talley) that he was doing a great job of pounding the zone and they were just getting hits, legit hits," Bowles said. "We weren't really making a lot of errors to begin with. They were just hitting it where we weren't. You can't do anything about that in the game of baseball. Sometimes that's going to happen, and I thought he did a great job of keeping his head in it."
North Harrison went three up and out in the top of the third then Crawford County launched a barrage. Coleman reached first on a Cougars error. Clayton Sauer hit into a fielder's choice and then stole second. Talley singled, moving Sauer to third. Stout then singled, scoring Sauer, and Clayton Sheckells walked to load the bases.
Christian Carlton singled to score Sauer. Stout scored when North Harrison erred allowing Murphy to first. The Crawford County bats continued to roar as Sturgeon hit on safely, scoring Stout and Sheckells. Madley singled to score Murphy and Carlton.
At that point, Fessel put Howell on the mound in relief. Coleman smashed a long fly to center field that allowed Sturgeon to score on the tag, and the Wolfpack took over for a 10-5 lead.
Both teams blanked in the fourth and fifth innings, but the highlight of the game came in the top of the fifth with two outs. Deatrick hit a short fly ball to right field that seemed destined to land for a single. Sheckells came racing in and became airborne, getting his glove under the ball for an out inches from the ground.
"I have no problem (saying) that was the best catch I've seen since I was coach here, and this is my fifth year," Bowles said. "We had one last year by Noah Talley at (Springs) Valley that saved the game that was an excellent catch, but Clayton, he had to dive really early fully extended and caught the thing almost laying on the ground. It was an excellent, excellent play in the outfield. If we had video of it, I would do my part trying to get it on ESPN."
The Cougars fought back and regained some ground in the top of the sixth. Martin singled to begin the inning and later stole second with one out. Cole Ballew singled and went to second on a wild pitch.
Bowles put Zach Coleman on the mound in relief. Harley launched a long fly ball that scored Martin. With Ben Davis at the plate, Ballew scored on a wild pitch, and the Cougars closed the game to three, 10-7.
Crawford County, however, unloaded again in the bottom of the inning. Preston Coleman walked and stole second. With one out, Talley walked. Sheckells carried the momentum of his catch over into his batting and ripped a double to right-center, scoring Coleman and Talley. Carlton followed with a single to score Sheckells, and Crawford County's lead ballooned back to six.
The Cougars put a runner in scoring position in the top of the seventh inning but failed to convert, the Wolfpack getting the 13-7 win.
"They put three up on us early, and we did a great job of getting the bats going," Bowles said. "It was not just the one, two, three kids. Everybody was putting the bat on the ball. That's really good to see as a coach, with your first conference game coming up tomorrow."
"I don't think there was just one play that sticks out," Fessel said. "It was just a series of plays. It was a series of just errors … As far as our offense, I thought our offense played well. We put up seven runs, and seven runs should win you games. It's just our defense wasn't there tonight."
Crawford County finished with 14 hits, with Sturgeon, Sauer, Stout and Carlton all getting two each. Talley struck out three North Harrison batters and walked three, while Zach Coleman struck out one and walked one. The Wolfpack had three errors and left six runners on base.
"(Talley's) offense backed him up," Bowles said. "His defense backed him up later on in the game a couple of times. We had two or three big plays in the outfield. Sheckells had a big diving catch. Reese had a big diving catch. … I felt like we were doing OK in the field and they were just hitting it where we weren't."
North Harrison had 10 hits. Martin had two of those, and Harley had the Cougars' lone extra-base hit. Martin struck out one and walked two Crawford County batters, and Howell, from the mound, struck out two and walked two. The Cougars had four errors and left six runners on base.
"Errors killed us that game," Fessel said. "That was not how we want to play. I thought our defense was the strength of our team. Some minor tweaks of things here or there, but tonight we didn't show up. We just didn't come to play 'D' like we wanted."
"Hopefully, we can get this turned around," he said. "Like I told the guys, 'Senior guys, this is it. You guys have got to step it up. I'm preaching body language and move on to the next play.' What I mean by this is, 'OK, you made a mistake. Learn from it and don't make it anymore.' We compounded the problem tonight. It was just error, error, error. That was just the disappointing part of it."
"This is a game that doesn't go towards the conference standings and it's not going to get us any kind of award, but this is a huge rival," Bowles said. "We haven't beaten them since 2011, and they're a very good baseball program. So, beating them is a big-time win for our boys. I want them to cherish this memory but be ready to move on tomorrow."
North Harrison 230 002 0 - 7 10 4
Crawford County 217 003 X - 13 14 3
W-Talley (1-1). L-Martin. 1B-Davis (NH), Lasley (NH), Sturgeon (CC) 2, Sauer (CC) 2, Martin (NH) 2, Howell (NH), Armstrong (NH), Wetzel (NH), Murphy (CC), Higdon (NH), Talley (CC), Stout (CC), Carlton (CC) 2, Madley (CC), Ballew (NH), Z. Coleman (CC); 2B-Harley (NH), P. Coleman (CC), Stout (CC), Sheckells (CC). Records-Crawford County 5-2, North Harrison 1-4.