Madison rolls past North Harrison
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The North Harrison Cougars baseball team began its new spring season last Tuesday against the visiting Madison Consolidated Cubs. For two innings, it looked like coach Kevin Fessel’s new team was going to be competitive.
What happened after that, however, turned into an avalanche of errors that crashed down on the Cougars as the Cubs went home with a 19-2 win after five innings.
“The errors killed us,” said Fessel. “When we made those errors, our body language, we just gave up and succumbed to the beating. I really wanted to see more fire and more focus, and we just didn’t have it.”
Madison threatened in the top of the first inning when Caden Plew ripped a triple with two outs. He would get no farther, however, as Ben Orrill flied out to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning with one out, Dalton Knott smacked a double to give the Cougars a chance to score. Jake Galligan flied out for the second out. North Harrison pitcher Colin Higdon singled then tried to stretch it into a double. Knott scored as Higdon raced for second. The ball, however, beat Higdon to the bag, and Higdon was tagged out. Knott’s run still counted, giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
The second inning went scoreless by both teams. Madison got two runners on but failed to convert. The Cougars got a base runner on when Sawyer Wetzel walked, but Jacob Cooper hit into a double play to end the inning.
“We were playing really well, and we were coming up with plays and we were doing what we were supposed to do,” Fessel said. “We came out and we made plays, and I was really proud. The first two innings we came out and I’m thinking, ‘We’re doing it’.”
However, things went against the Cougars in a hurry in the third inning. Drew Forner and Zach Forner singled, and Zander Vonch got a base on a Cougars’ error to load the bases. Orrill smashed a triple for three runs and a Cubs lead. Keegan Clement then walked and moments later scored on a Trenton Barnes double.
The Cougars finally got an out when Myles Barnes struck out. With Luke McCarty at the plate, Clement scored on a passed ball. McCarty was hit by a pitch and later scored when Keaton Rowlett hit a long single. At that point, Fessel put Mason Napper on the mound. Drew Forner, batting for his second time, reached first on another Cougars’ error. Vonch followed with a single, scoring Rowlett, and the Cubs had a 7-1 lead.
Henry Davis singled to start the bottom of the third for the Cougars, but that was followed by a pair of fielder’s choice plays by the Cubs. Isiah Lawson, who got to first on the second choice, grabbed two bases on a pair of passed balls moving to third. A third passed ball by Madison pitcher Zach Forner allowed Lawson to score; the Cougars’ deficit closed to 7-2.
“I thought our pitching did all right for the first game,” Fessel said. “We did have eight walks. We were pounding the zone. I thought, honestly, we were throwing some strikes, and they were hitting the ball. That’s kind of what we want. We don’t have that pitcher that’s going to come in here and strike out the side. We know they’re going to hit the ball, so we’ve got to make the plays. That’s really the bottom line.”
The game completely collapsed for the Cougars in the top of the fourth when Madison scored 12 runs. The Cubs scored four runs in their first five batters when North Harrison committed three straight errors. A little later, four batters were walked and the Cubs got a single that led to six more runs. By the end of the at-bat, Madison led 19-2.
Midway through the bottom of the fourth, a cold rain began to fall. North Harrison got a base runner on but again failed to convert. Madison loaded up the top of the fifth as the rain turned into a deluge but sacrificed the runs for outs. North Harrison went three up and out in the bottom of inning, and the Cubs had the 19-2 win.
“That third inning we had the one pop-up in foul territory, and we had three guys stare at it and it hits right in between them,” Fessel said. “I think that was the play that was, ‘Oh, my gosh; what was that?’ After that, the problems just compounded. We just kind of sulked and held our heads low. I could see their body language, and it took the wind out of our sails. From there, it was error after error after error.”
North Harrison had four hits for the game with singles by Higdon, Davis and Wetzel and a double by Knott. Higdon, Napper and Noah Smith struck out three Cubs batters, walked eight and hit three for the game. North Harrison had seven errors and left four runners on base.
“We’ve had practices where I’ve felt really good, and then there are others I’d like to see us a little sharper,” Fessel said. “We were exposed tonight, and we’ve just got to get better.”
Madison had 14 hits for the game, with Zach Forner, Vonch, Myles Barnes and Orrill getting two each. Zach Forner and Orrill combined for four strikeouts and two walks. Madison left seven runners on base and had no errors.
“If we cut down on the errors and the walks, we’re in these games,” Fessel said. “We’ve got to get these guys to understand that that’s where we want to be. We’ve got to cut down on the errors, and then each error that we have take personal and learn on it. I don’t want to say, ‘Dwell on it,’ because you’ve got to have a short memory. ‘OK, I messed up, but I know how to do it. Boom, I’m ready to go again. I know I messed up. Done.’ When you make an error and when you make another error, it starts affecting your play. I think that’s what happened to us tonight.”
Madison 007 (12)0 – 19 14 0
North Harrison 101 0 0 – 2 3 7
W-Z. Forner (1-0), L-Higdon (0-1); 1B-Dermaree (M), Z. Forner (M) 2, Rowlett (M) 2, Vonch (M) 2, Davis (NH), Wetzel (NH), Orrill (M), Clement (M); 2B-Knott (NH), T. Barnes (M) 2; 3B-Plew (M), Orrill (M).