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Small ball works for Cougars

Mitchell Sectional Semi-Final

June 04, 2008
North Harrison proved in Thursday's Class 3A Mitchell baseball sectional that playing small ball still reigns supreme in the game.

Against Salem, North Harrison mixed in a pair of double steals, five sacrifices and four doubles to whip the Lions 10-0, moving on to the sectional final.

"Execution is key for us," Cougar skipper Greg Oppel said. "The kids right now are playing so unselfish. We hit the ball, put the ball in play and forced them to make plays."

The short game was evident in the second inning once lead-off hitter Adam Kiesler lined a single to the outfield grass. Jim Bob Schuler moved his teammate to second with a sacrifice bunt. Kiesler later scored on a sacrifice fly by Haynes Perry.

"We are giving ourselves up," Oppel said. "We are going to play small ball, there's no secret about it, I'm old school. About 10 games into the season they bought into it and realized this is how we are going to win games. They are at the top of their game right now."

Using their speed and aggressiveness paid off in the third inning, as well. In the third, the team batted around, plating five runs to blow the game open. Marcus Stone and Dave Geswein were hit by pitches early in the inning. With both runners on the corners, the Cougars executed a double steal, plating Stone and moving Geswein to third. He later scored on a wild pitch.

With the bases clear Cody Johnson roped a double, then stole third. Schuler delivered again with two outs with an RBI single and later scored on a Janes double.

The lead was more than enough for Schuler, who picked up the win on the hill. The senior, bound to play at Rose-Hulman next season, was in cruise control on the mound. Schuler struck out seven and walk two while giving up two hits in five innings of work.

"He was around the plate, mixing his pitches real well," Oppel said. "He was down in the zone and that is where you need to be. Tonight was one of those nights where he was just on."

The defense behind Schuler was equally impressive. The highlight of the game came in the second inning when at first base, Johnson made an amazing play on a pop up in foul territory. The senior made an over the shoulder Willie Mays-esque diving catch.

"He made a tremendous play, going on a dead sprint," Oppel said. "Our defense has been key lately. The defense took the pressure of the pitching."

North Harrison added two runs in the fourth and fifth innings to reach the 10-run mercy rule.

Each starter scored at least one run. Johnson was the only player with two runs and also had two hits and an RBI. Chad Eveslage and Kiesler had two hits, including a double each.

"They are excited because they are playing well and as a team," Oppel added. "Every time someone does something, everybody is out of the dugout to congratulate them. This team is so unselfish."

The Cougars advanced to play Corydon Central in the sectional final.

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