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Highlanders rally past Southern

April 04, 2012
After getting off to a horrendous start in their season opener Friday, the Floyd Central Highlanders baseball team rallied from two runs down in the fourth inning to earn a 10-5 win over visiting Louisville Southern. It took a wake-up call from coach Casey LaDuke to pull the Highlanders out of their early flat spin.

Floyd Central senior Tanner Wortham survives a rundown against the Southern High School infield Friday afternoon and allows the Highlanders to get their first run of the game. Floyd Central rallied to win, 10-5. Photo by Wade Bell
"We weren't very good," LaDuke said about the game's start. "It was their eighth game, and it was our first. The problem is, with our first game, we've got eight of our players out there as returning starters that have played a lot. The things we messed up are the things we've been practicing the last two weeks."

Floyd Central struggled through the first three innings, both in the field and at the plate. Southern got on the board first in the second inning as the Highlanders committed three errors. Southern loaded the bases on a single by Blake Hall and two Floyd Central miscues. With one out, Chris Fisher walked to push Southern's first run across the plate. With the bases still loaded, Floyd Central erred again, and Blake Hall scored for a 2-0 lead.

The Highlanders countered in the bottom of the second, getting hits from Bryce Smith and Tanner Wortham. The latter forced a rundown, causing a distraction as Smith broke for third. An overthrow by Southern allowed Smith to go home for Floyd Central's first run.

Derek Despain later tripled to score Cody Sunderhaus, who had reached safely on a fielder's choice. Garrett Shanks then singled to score Despain, and the Highlanders had a 3-2 edge.

Southern bounced back in the top of the fourth with three more runs as the Highlanders again found themselves plagued by errors. After the Trojans loaded the bases, Austin Harbin scored on a sacrifice fly by Scott Bell.

With two outs, Justin Belt walked and Fisher stole third. Floyd Central pitcher Matt Powers was called for a balk, scoring Fisher and moving Bell to second. Sam Rein then singled to score Bell, and Southern had a 5-3 lead.

At that point, LaDuke decided it was time for a heart-to-heart talk with his team.

"It was just frustrating," LaDuke said. "They're better than that. If we were young and didn't have a lot of returning starters, I could see that stuff, but what I told them is, we've got too many returning starters and too much experience to do that kind of stuff We're better than that."

Floyd Central responded by getting one of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth. Smith doubled, then Wortham got hit by a pitch. Southern erred with Sunderhaus batting to score Smith, and the Highlanders' deficit was cut to one.

LaDuke put Kyle Sipes on the mound to begin the fifth. Sipes walked Ernesto Ramirez but gunned down his next two batters. The Floyd Central defense stopped Ramirez's attempt to steal for the third out.

The Highlanders didn't score in the inning, but Sipes kept the Trojans off balance in the top of the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Floyd Central had its big run, scoring six times. Wortham got an infield single then scored on a two-out double by Despain. Shanks followed with a single to score Despain. Southern put Jacob Purvis on the mound, but Floyd Central had the momentum, with Jacob Snodgrass hitting on and Connor Curry getting hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Reed Padgett looped a single to score Shanks and Snodgrass. Kyle Neafus followed with a double to score Curry and Padgett for a 10-5 lead.

Sipes did his part in the top of the seventh inning, striking out the side as the Highlanders got the 10-5 win.

Floyd Central finished with 14 hits, with Despain punching in a single, double and a triple for two RBIs and Shanks getting three singles, also for two RBIs. On the mound, Powers struck out five and walked three, while Sipes struck out six of the nine batters he faced.

Southern had two hits and committed two errors. Hurler Austin Tucker had three strikeouts and hit one batter, and Purvis hit one Floyd Central batter.

LaDuke said the game would have been much worse had the Highlanders been playing one of their Hoosier Hills Conference rivals like Jeffersonville or New Albany.

"Jeff is sitting there with a good team," LaDuke said. "New Albany is sitting there with a good team. We talk about that stuff. That's why this stuff here is unacceptable. When we play those types of teams, we'll get beat. That's the one thing that kind of helped us here. They never got ahead of us so that we could still bunt, we could still run, we could still steal."

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