April 25, 2012North Harrison baseball coach Jamie Polk said his centerfielder, Mitch Bolin, is a clutch player who lives for the moment. When the junior slid in safely amid a cloud of dust in the top of the seventh inning to give the Cougars a 7-5 lead over rival Corydon Central on Thursday, he wasted little time celebrating with teammates.
Prior to scoring, Bolin hit a go-ahead double to right center, breaking a 5-all tie in the final inning to plate Michael Cox. Corydon Central pitcher Mitch Akers put Cox, the eventual winning run, on to lead off the top of the inning when he hit the senior.
Corydon Central’s Mitch Akers (9) is able to slide back in time before North Harrison third baseman Kyle Jennings applies the tag. Jennings eventually threw to first to get the hitter out. Akers finished with three hits for the Panthers. Photo by Brian Smith
"Mitch is a clutch guy and clutch player," Polk said. "He wants to be the guy and you can't ask for more than that. He doesn't let too many things bother him. He seems to always put the bat on the ball at the key moments. I'm real proud of him."
Bolin advanced to third on the throw home that attempted to cut down Cox. Bolin came across the plate when Jordan Robbeloth grounded to Corydon Central second baseman Andrew Yeager, but his throw home was late.
The game was another classic in the rivalry between the Mid-Southern Conference schools.
"(Corydon Central coach) Zach (Sipes) does a great job with that team; they really battled," Polk said. "Their pitcher (Mitch Akers) kept us off balanced. We maybe just outlasted them today. I don't think I had our kids ready for this atmosphere. Our kids had a lot of emotion, and I didn't have them ready for that. Our kids battled and didn't give in on pressure pitches and pressure at bats."
The host Panthers threatened in the final half of the seventh inning. Jeremiah Windell led off legging out an infield single and later stole second base. With Windell in scoring position, Polk went to lefty ace Robbeloth to relieve Cox for the final three outs. Robbeloth gave up a hit to Akers, putting runners on the corners with no outs.
Escaping trouble, Robbeloth recorded the next three outs consecutively, including a Michael McCarty ground out to close it.
"Some of us might not like North Harrison because it is a rivalry game, but we sure do respect them," said Sipes. "We know they are a good team, but we didn't have errors that will show up in the box score, but it was small mental errors we made that really helped North Harrison."
The game was a tussle between the two. After failing to execute a double steal in the first inning, North Harrison's Tyler Cockerham scored in the second when Bolin swiped second. Cockerham had led off the inning with a triple.
Akers, who lasted all seven innings, striking out 13, helped his cause at the plate. He scored after hitting a lead-off double in the bottom of the second when McCarty's blooper to center field was misplayed by North Harrison. Akers finished with three hits for the Panthers.
North Harrison took a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Derrick Harter scored Josh Wenning with a double to left. Harter started the game on the mound for North Harrison but lasted three innings.
He had a rough third, yielding three runs. Chase Burton and Akers clubbed doubles, while McCarty added an RBI single to give Corydon Central a 4-2 lead.
The edge was short-lived. Robbeloth and Wyatt Faith started the next inning with singles. They were followed by a two-out single off the bat of Harter to tie the game.
Both teams added another run each, Corydon Central's on a Windell single and North Harrison's on a Bolin triple. It all set up the thrilling seventh inning.
Polk said the game had the feel of the postseason.
"We've had two tough ones in a row," he said. "Last night was a grind with Heritage Hills (1-0 win), and tonight was the same with our big rival. But we told the kids, this is what the playoffs will be like. You'll have to play two good teams back to back. We need to get ready for those things."
North Harrison came into the contest ranked No. 9 in Class 3A.
Polk said Harter didn't have his best stuff on the mound but he expects him to bounce back.
"Corydon is a nice ball club," Polk said. "It was important for us to win. After we battled back after not playing well, it was important for us to get this game after our kids worked so hard. Jordan is a kid that will battle for you. He hits the strike zone and makes it tough on batters."
North Harrison returns to action with a game tonight (Wednesday) at Providence (5 p.m.) and tomorrow when it hosts Salem (5 p.m.).