Cubs turn into Grizzles, oust Cougars, 10-6
The Madison Cubs struck hard and early against North Harrison in the semifinals of the Class 3A Madison baseball sectional, sending the Cougars home with a 10-6 loss and ending their season with a 21-4 record.
“It’s not the best but it ranks in the top two or three percentage wise,” said North Harrison coach Danny Schmidt of the team’s season. “This is a team that ended the season with very little pitching experience. They just did a heck of a job.”
There was a strange silence in the dugout and on the field as North Harrison came out to stretch and warmup.
“They’re just confident,” said pitcher Justin Watkins, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. “They just want to win really bad.”
“I’m sure there were,” said Schmidt about his team’s nerves. “We’re not what you call a veteran team. I don’t think that had an effect on our pitching. That’s the unfortunate thing about high school baseball.”
Madison was confident as well and wasted no time in showing it, beating up on North Harrison pitcher Scott Burdin. Nick Houchen walked, Chance Barnes doubled and Josh Burris singled scoring the first of four first-inning runs for the Cubs. Mike Watson walked to load the bases then Gerald Meier was hit by a pitch scoring the Cubs’ second run.
Andy Povaleri hit a long fly ball with Burris tagging for the score. With two outs Derek Fisse got Madison’s third hit of the inning to score Watson. Before the Cougars had their first bat they found themselves in a 4-0 hole.
With their bats, the Cougars went three up and out and were back on the field as quickly as they had come in to bat. This time, however, Joel Culbertson took the pitching mound hoping to keep the Cubs back in the den.
In the top of the second Madison added two more runs digging a deeper hole for North Harrison. This time at bat with two outs, Burris doubled then pitcher Watson got his second hit, this one being a big one that flew over the left field wall for a two-run home run and a 6-0 lead for Madison.
“In the majors there’s no way a guy comes back and pitches on three days rest, probably not in the World Series,” said Schmidt of his team’s pitching. “But in high school baseball, the way it’s set up, you have to do it. That’s how big the bye is. If you can get a bye, it’s huge. You’ve got two pitchers rested, ready to throw.
“Scott (Burdin) just didn’t have anything on the ball today. There was no pop at all. Joel came in and pitched well. I thought he had one bad pitch when the kid homered on a curve ball on a full count with first base open.”
In the bottom of the third inning the Cougars finally got one of those runs back. Todd Winchell singled and went to second on an overthrow. With two outs and Culbertson at bat, Winchell went to third after Watson balked. Culbertson reached safely on a Madison error, and Winchell scored putting the Cougars on the board.
The Cubs cancelled that North Harrison run in the top of the fourth when Burris got his third hit of the day, an infield single, and stole second. Watson got another big hit, doubling this time to score Burris for a 7-1 Madison advantage.
In the bottom of the fourth Gary Fessel singled for the Cougars. This time Shanon Miller belted one over the fence in right field for a two-run homer as North Harrison scratched within 7-3.
“We fought and fought, and from being down 6-0, and stayed in there and gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Schmidt. “We just didn’t get over the hump.”
Both teams blanked out in the fifth, and Madison failed to extend their lead in the sixth. Fessel got his second hit and went to second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning. Miller got another RBI single, driving Fessel home. The Cougars closed the gap to just three runs with one bat left.
But in the seventh the hole got deep once again for the Cougars. Adam Dunbar was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrafice bunt by Cory Getz. Gary Mouser, Nick Houchen, and Chance Barnes ripped three straight hits for two runs. A third run came later as Houchen scored on a passed ball for a 10-4 lead.
North Harrison was not ready to roll over yet, however, and with one bat left made one last ditch effort. With one out Anthony Milburn and Culbertson both singled. Doug Martin struck out, but Ty Rothrock doubled scoring both Milburn and Culbertson, closing the gap to four. Fessel tried to keep the Cougars’ bats alive but struck out after several fouls, sending Madison to the championship game later that evening.
Schmidt said Madison’s early lead shut down North Harrison’s spirits in the opening innings, but he was pleased at how they worked back into the game.
“You’d like to use that as an excuse but the kids fought right back,” said Schmidt. “We were sitting in the dugout thinking, ‘Here comes the maul’ because we’ve kind of thrown the towel in. But we just fought tooth and nail, and we were a batter away, even going to 10-4 the last inning, from sending the tying run to the plate. Give credit to the kids. They fought back and we had a great season.”
Watson struck out six Cougar batters and walked none. North Harrison managed just two strikeouts, walked two, and hit four Madison batters.
“The problem we have with our pitching staff is we don’t have a lot of pop,” Schmidt said. “That’s just natural ability. We usually average about two or three strikeouts and against a good team we’ve got to make 20 outs. That’s awful tough for high school baseball. That’s the one thing we’ve missed, not having a guy with a lot of pop to get us consistently nine or 10 strikeouts. It makes the whole game totally different. You only have to field half the balls you normally would.”
The Cougars will have a big hole to fill next year losing seven seniors.
“They’ve been a pleasure to coach,” said Schmidt. “All the way down they’ve listened to everything we’ve said with no complaining at all. They’ve been fun, and I’m going to miss them to death because they’re so fun to be around. Baseball or not they’re just a fun group.”