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Freshman leads Rebels past Mustangs

South Central coach Nick Tremain has leaned on his freshman pitcher, Chip Hockenbury, in key situations this year. Having pitched in 15 games this season, the coach had no problems starting Hockenbury in South Central’s first sectional game of 2007.
Hockenbury showed no signs of weakness against New Washington in Monday afternoon’s opening game of the Class A Lanesville sectional, pitching flawless one-hit baseball to lead the Rebels to a decisive 10-0 win in six innings.
‘He mixes speeds real well,’ Tremain said. ‘I knew if he was on, he could control them. He only walked one, which is his strength and made them put it in play. For a freshman in their first sectional game, I thought he did an excellent job.’
The freshman, now 7-2, was able to keep the Mustang hitters off-balance, even throwing a full-count curveball to strikeout Derek Renschler in the sixth inning. He finished with seven punch-outs.
Monday wasn’t the first strong outing for Hockenbury against New Washington. He also one-hit the Mustangs during the regular season.
Tremain said Hockenbury is the workhorse of the rotation.
‘He pitched in a lot of games this year,’ he said. ‘I’ve been able to count on him all year long. I know at any point he can throw strikes.’
South Central struggled early on at the plate. Thanks to a New Washington error, the Rebels scored the first run of the game in the second inning. Elliot Thompson’s fly ball to left was dropped, plating Cody Simpson. Another error on a ground ball hit by John Lopp with two outs in the third inning led to South Central’s second run.
‘Their pitcher (Kyle Robertson) did a nice job keeping us off balance,’ Tremain said. ‘He threw strikes. We were kind of a bit impatient at the plate. We finally, in the sixth inning, broke through with a few hits. I wasn’t real happy with our start swinging the bat, but give credit to their pitcher.’
In the sixth inning, the Rebel bats finally woke up against Robertson, scoring seven runs. Hockenbury, Jacob Hentrup and Adam McKnight led off the inning with singles. Hentrup picked up an RBI with his single. After Cody Jobe grounded out, Travis Higdon hit an RBI sac fly. The next five runs came with two outs as the Rebel’s batted around.
Dustin Hornickel’s three-run triple closed the door on New Washington, giving the Rebels not only momentum, but a 9-0 lead after he scored on a wild pitch. Hockenbury added a run scoring double to push the Rebel lead to 10, assuring the run-rule win.
‘Last year we got knocked out in the first round,’ Tremain said. ‘So obviously our goal was to advance and it took us a few innings to get going, but we accomplished our goal.’
The win puts South Central in Thursday’s semi-final game against a familiar foe. County-rival Lanesville drew a first-round bye and will challenge the Rebels for the fourth time this season.
‘This will be the fourth time we played them so I don’t think there are any secrets for either one of us,’ Tremain said. ‘We’ll see pitchers that we’ve seen and they’ll see pitchers they’ve seen. It’s just going to be a matter of who executes better, makes plays in the field and puts the ball in play.’
Lanesville has the edge in the season series 2-1. The Eagles won the Southern Athletic Conference match-up 5-4 early in the season. Then at the Crawford County Tournament, South Central won 8-3. The two teams then met again a few weeks ago and Lanesville game out on top 3-2.
The first pitch is slated for 4 p.m. on Thursday. The winner will advance to the sectional championship game on Saturday at 3 p.m.
In other first round sectional action Monday, Borden cruised to a 12-3 win over Restoration Christian. Borden advanced to play Henryville, who rallied in the seventh inning to eliminate Christian Academy 6-5. Borden and Henryville will play in the second semi-final game Thursday at 6 p.m.