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Cougars maul Musketeers, 8-1

May 21, 2008
The North Harrison Cougars earned a big win last Monday afternoon at Eastern at Pekin in an 8-1 mauling to keep themselves alive in the race for the Mid-Southern Conference championship. The Cougars got going early and never let up.

North Harrison senior Jim Bob Schuler struck out 10 Musketeers as the Cougars beat up Eastern, 8-1, in a Mid-Southern Conference game. (Photo by Wade Bell)
"Pekin is a team that is very deceiving," North Harrison coach Greg Oppel said. "They've played a lot of teams close. When they put (Steve) Durham on the mound, Durham is as good of pitcher as anyone in Southern Indiana. He does a great job. He throws the ball hard and has a great breaking pitch. We were fortunate enough to have some timely hitting today."

The Cougars got on the board in the first inning as Cody Johnson hit a two-out single and scored on a solid double by Adam Kiesler.

Pitcher Jim Bob Schuler struck out of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the inning.

In the top of the second inning, Dylan Janes smacked a double, but got picked off trying to steal third. Haynes Perry, however, used his bat to say, "No problem," hitting a solo homer over the centerfield fence for a 2-0 Cougar lead.

"It takes the wind out of their sails," Oppel said. "We talk all the time about jumping on them early, especially at their place. You jump on them early, put the pressure on them, make them make the plays. We want them to have to come from behind."

Eastern got one of those runs back in the bottom of the third. Justin Kaelin walked, and then, with two outs, scored as a Cougar error allowed Durham to reach base. Steve McDermott hit on safely, but Schuler struck out Aaron Nicholson to end any further threat, preserving a 2-1 Cougar edge.

Following a scoreless fourth inning, North Harrison added two runs in the fifth. Johnson got a bunt single and Kiesler and Schuler walked. Then, Janes hit a long single to score Johnson and Kiesler, ballooning the Cougar lead to 4-1.

David Geswein and Kiesler earned RBIs in the sixth inning, as North Harrison's lead swelled to 6-1.

Eastern stranded two runners in the bottom of the inning to go scoreless again. The Cougars, however, scored two more in the seventh to go up 8-1.

North Harrison then held Eastern to three-up-and-down in the bottom of the seventh for the 8-1 win.

"That's a nice win," Oppel said. "We started off with Adam Kiesler getting a nice double into left-center, which he's done all year long. He's something special. I thought Cody Johnson had a nice hit today. There was just a lot of timely hitting. Haynes Perry, that kid has really turned it on the last four or five games. He's hitting with some authority."

North Harrison finished with seven hits, with Johnson, Janes and Kiesler each getting two. The Cougars made just one error and left nine runners standing. Schuler had a good day, recording 10 strikeouts, but also issued six walks. Schuler recently had an injury that required a hole being drilled through the thumbnail of his pitching hand.

"They had to drill a hole in it and drain it," Oppel said. "You have not seen the best of him yet. At times he was throwing in the low 80's today. He had a nice breaking pitch. He's working the ball down. He only gave up three hits. You take away the error, and he's got a shutout. This is a good hitting team. This is a team that scores 7, 8, 9 runs a game. They pride themselves on hitting the ball so I really, really feel good where we're at on our pitching right now."

Oppel said his senior pitcher has worked to keep his stamina up to be pitching as hard in the seventh inning as the first.

"We run after every game, we run at practice," he said. "My father used to say your arm is only as good as your leg, so he would always have me run a lot. I didn't like it, but your arms are as good as your legs. That's why I think he's so strong at the end of the game as he (is) at the beginning of the game."

Eastern finished with three hits, with McDermott getting two, and the Musketeers made three errors. Durham tallied four strikeouts, but gave up six walks, and Aaron Nicholson also issued a walk.

"I'm just tickled to death where we're at," Oppel said. "We've got a lot of positive energy right now. It's a very nice win for us over a class coach (Larry Ingram). He's a very class coach."

Oppel said the win keeps his team in the hunt for at least a part of the Mid-Southern Conference title.

"We had one loss in the conference, against Charlestown," Oppel said. "We've got to win first against Brownstown. Brownstown's playing a lot better baseball right now. We've got them at home. We'll be excited to play them. Hopefully, we can come through with pretty good pitching against Brownstown. We'll put our ace on the mound. We'll have a good shot, but you've got to field the ball. The way we're fielding the ball, that's key."

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