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Floyd Central's Daniel Huhnerkoch dives back to second in front of North Harrison's Jordan Byrne to avoid being picked off in the first inning. (Photo by Wade Bell)

Highlanders bury Cougars, 17-0


April 23, 2008
Last Wednesday is a day the North Harrison baseball team would like to forget as the visiting Floyd Central Highlanders pounded the Cougars in a 17-0 rout. Neither team has had a great start to the season, with field conditions from the wetter-than-normal spring putting a damper on practice sessions in the opening weeks.

"We've come out hitting a little slow this year," Floyd coach Casey LaDuke said. "I think it's practice time. With the weather, it's been hard to get on the field, and I'm sure everybody's been like that. We didn't see a lot of live pitching early in the season, and we struggled some hitting the ball earlier and scoring some runs."

"This is no excuse, but (two days before) we had a four-hour practice," North Harrison coach Greg Oppel said. "It's the first time we've been on the field. I think a lot of people know we've had a lot of problems with drainage on the field. We took advantage of it yesterday.

"We've had some JV games the last few days where we couldn't get on it. Me and the coaches were talking, and we expected to struggle tonight. You don't want to struggle this much, but we did."

Floyd worked on putting the game away early, scoring four runs in the first inning, thanks in part to two North Harrison errors.

Tyler Amos got the ball rolling for Floyd with a lead-off double. Daniel Huhnerkoch reached on a Cougar error that also allowed Amos to score. Floyd got three more runs in the inning and took a 4-0 lead.

"When you start the game with errors, and the game's at 4-0, baseball is a game that plays on your psyche," Oppel said. "It got to us. Everybody in the stands was like, 'You're dugout's dead,' and we knew it."

North Harrison got two runners on in the bottom of the inning, but failed to convert.

Floyd scored again in the second, but had its big inning in the third when it put seven runs across the plate. It was a bad inning for North Harrison in more ways than one, however, as the Cougars committed three errors in the Floyd run.

"They made some mistakes, too, but what we've tried to teach our kids is, when the other team makes mistakes, you've got to make them pay for it," LaDuke said. "When you put the bat on the ball, it puts more pressure on them to make a play on it.

"We're happy with that, and I know they're disappointed on the other side, but we've been on that end where we're the ones making mistakes and the other team is capitalizing on it and they're winning. We just happen to be on the good side of it tonight."

North Harrison got two hits in the bottom of the third, but failed again to score either runner. Floyd, however, added five more runs in the fourth for its 17-0 lead.

North Harrison failed to score in the bottom of the inning, and the game was called after five innings because of the 10-run rule.

"We scored 22 runs this weekend in two games and then we come back and do this," LaDuke said. "We're getting to see some live pitching and getting to work on hitting a little bit more. Hopefully, it showed. There was a few mistakes we made tonight and we need to clean it up and go out and play well."

"I did see some bright spots tonight," Oppel said. "We're still hitting the ball right at people. We didn't hit it as hard as we did last night at Charlestown. I've got four kids hitting .500, so we're still hitting the ball. We made two errors to start the game and that's been our problem all year."

Floyd finished with eight hits, two for extra bases, and made just one error. Dylan Bleemel struck out seven North Harrison batters and had no walks.

"He had a real good last outing against New Albany," LaDuke said of his pitcher. "He's a junior and this is his first year throwing varsity, and he's just got to get better and improve. All of our pitchers have done real well so far this year."

North Harrison finished with five hits, but offset that with seven errors. Pitchers Jim Bob Schuler and Dylan Janes combined for four strikeouts, six walks and one hit batter.

"I've been in games like this," Oppel said. "We had a couple like this last year. What I told them was, 'Guys, I know you're tired.' I likened it to biology. When you're in biology class, you've got this homework assignment. You've got papers due and you've got all this going on and then finally when you're at the end, you're just drained."

LaDuke said the lopsided win didn't mean his team can't improve.

"All the facets of the game, pitching, defense, hitting, you've got to stay on it all," he said. "We've just got to keep working hard during practice. It's a long season and we're just trying to improve each day. Hopefully, come sectional time, we're playing real well."

Oppel said the loss doesn't mean his team doesn't have potential.

"This is a good baseball team," he said. "In a week we're going to be a lot better. We'll be a lot better because we'll be on our field two or three times and making long throws from first to third, to second, turning real double plays and not in a gym. That helps a lot. The most double plays we've turned has been on the practice football field behind the fence."

"We're 3-4 but we could easily be 7-1," he added. "It's always been errors. When we lost the game at Mitchell, it was 16-15 and it was our game to lose. We're doing things right. There's not a team out there that works harder than we do. This team is going to get better. They really are."

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