Defensively splendid: NH upends Madison, 6-2
Early in the season the roles may have been reversed.
The scoreboard may have read six North Harrison errors instead of the six its opponent Madison made Friday afternoon.
Yet during the final of the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional, the host Cougars (15-10) didn’t make an error and backed pitcher Kyle Whittinghill with two double plays to capture their seventh sectional title in school history with a 6-2 win over Madison (17-11).
North’s victory avenged a loss to the Cubs in last year’s sectional final.
‘I’ve been pretty hard on them all year,’ first-year North Harrison coach Rick Parr said. ‘Things have been coming together a little bit. I am just so excited for these guys.’
Whittinghill had a no-hitter going through three innings and was cruising on the mound. He struck out three and relied on solid, error-free defense behind him, before being lifted in the sixth.
‘Just throw strikes and let the defense do what they do best,’ Whittinghill said. ‘It’s just a lot more relaxing on the mound, knowing you don’t have to be a power pitcher.’
Parr said Whittinghill has battled a minor shoulder injury this season, but he knew if his senior was on, it was going to be a tough ball game for Madison to win.
After the Cubs crept to within one run at 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, North responded at the plate with hard hit balls in the sixth. Senior Chris Rawert led off with a single, then Adam Kiesler hit a shot off the center-field fence.
‘He just crushed it,’ Parr said of Kiesler’s shot.
Madison then turned to sophomore Deron Smith to relieve starting pitcher Aaron Thorpe. Smith then walked the bases loaded for Haynes Perry.
Madison then committed their costliest error of the game.
Looking to throw home for a force play with bases loaded and no one out, Perry’s sharp ground ball went through the legs of Madison second basemen Shaun Pennington. Two runs scored and Jordan Byrne added a fourth insurance run, scoring Perry on a sacrifice fly.
‘We had some great individual effort but I really think they (Madison) looked like how we played early (in the season),’ Parr said. ‘They were over-playing.’
Madison threatened in the seventh inning, hitting a pair of singles off Cougar reliever Bryan Case. The senior was lifted for Cody Simpson, who closed the door on the Cubs, retiring the next three batters to secure the sectional title.
‘I’ve been waiting to use Cody in that situation,’ Parr said of the lefty. Coach recalled the junior having a similar moment during the basketball season hitting a clutch three-pointer off the bench during a sectional game. ‘He has a great personality and has great stuff.’
North Harrison is starting to hit the ball well, and at the right time.
In the fourth, two Thorpe walks turned into Cougar runs. With two outs JimBob Schuler hit a triple over the right fielder’s head, plating Cody Johnson and Adam Kiesler.
Up 3-0, North Harrison gave up a run in the fourth and one in the fifth. Shaun Pennington’s double in the fifth put Madison within one at 3-2. Madison had the first two on in the inning, but Perry turned a double play, stepping on third and throwing to first, before Pennington’s double. Yet it was the Cougars bouncing back, adding three in the sixth, leading to the win.
The Cougars were to have hosted the regional contest against South Dearborn yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, but a brief storm pushed the game back to today at 5 p.m.
South Dearborn defeated Connersville 8-7 in the Rushville Sectional to reach the regional.
The winner advances to the Semi-state, which will be held at Ruxer Field in Jasper. The North Harrison-South Dearborn winner will play the Vincennes Lincoln-Evansville Mater Dei winner on Saturday.
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