Cougars can’t get a break, fall in regional
The North Harrison Cougars were hoping a one-day weather delay would play into their favor at the North Harrison baseball regional last Wednesday, but the South Dearborn Knights had something to say about that and used four extra-base hits to work toward a 4-2 win, thus ending the Cougars’ season at 15-11.
‘Not our best,’ said North Harrison coach Rick Parr. ‘Those things happen. We’ve put together some games in a row that was really good. You never want to get beat unless you’re at your best really, but you rarely get beat when you’re at your best, so I felt like it was that double-edge sword kind of thing.
‘The thing I’ve said about these guys all year, and I will never stop saying it, their character, their chemistry, their heart, their desire, there was never an ounce of quit out there at all. There may have been an ounce of nervousness, maybe a couple of ounces of ‘I’ve got to really hurry,’ which we didn’t play like that in the sectional. I have no complaints. They’re a great group of guys. They play hard.’
Neither team scored in the first two innings despite slapping hits for extra bases and getting runners in scoring position. In the top of the third, however, the Knights struck paydirt.
Cody Berry walked then was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Redwine. The Cougars then committed an error allowing Nathan Parrott to first and Berry scored on the play to put South Dearborn on the board.
North Harrison just missed getting a double play with Samuel Schmeitzer batting. The Knights followed up with back-to-back doubles by Adam Wheat and Joshua Harrell for two runs and a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars got one of those back in the bottom of the third. With one out, Michael Dean ripped a double then moved to third when Tyler Schmidt ground out back to the pitching mound. Jordan Byrne then singled to score Dean and the Knights lead was cut to two.
North Harrison then had the first of two big defensive innings. Ethan Beyer bunted out, then Jeffrey Lewis was hit by a pitch. Lewis stole second then went to third on a North Harrison throwing error. The Cougars redeemed themselves on the next play as the Knights went for the squeeze play with Berry batting. North Harrison was not fooled, and Dean made the tag for the out at home. Berry was picked off trying to steal second on the next play, and the Cougars put a halt to the scoring threat.
‘The thing about our defense all year has been we’ve struggled a lot with that,’ Parr said. ‘There are sometimes I’ll just coach a team and say, ‘We’re just horrible defensively.’ This was not the case. I knew we had the ability to be a good defensive team. An above-average team will make signs of plays every so often, just like little parts of it and we did that.’
The Cougars got another run back in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, senior Chris Rawert ripped a long shot to the gap in right-center field, and some aggressive base-running allowed Rawert to third for a triple. Adam Kiesler followed with a long sacrifice fly to center field, and Rawert scored to close the gap to one run, 3-2.
South Dearborn went three up and out in the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, North Harrison got two baserunners on but failed to convert. In the top of the sixth, the Knights added another run to their total as Wheat singled and Harrell followed with his second double of the game. The Knights took a 4-2 lead with North Harrison having two chances to get back in the game.
North Harrison got two runners on in the bottom of the sixth on walks but couldn’t reach the peak. In the top of the seventh, the Knights threatened to have another big inning as they loaded the bases. Harrell then hit a line shot back to Bryan Case on the pitcher’s mound, but the ball bounced off the tip of Case’s glove. The ball bounced up in the air and a quick thinking David Geswein came running in from second to make the catch for the out. Parrott got caught off third and the force finished the inning for the Knights. That defensive play, however, didn’t help the Cougars at the next at-bat as North Harrison went three up and out, South Dearnborn getting the game and the regional championship with the 4-2 win.
‘South Dearborn scouted us really well,’ Parr said. ‘They threw a pitcher we were going to struggle with, a slow, curve-ball guy, and we did struggle. It was a really difficult thing to battle. We worked on it and poked a few runs there, but we never just got really settled. The next guy really wasn’t much different. He threw a little harder. I thought we were going to hit him and we didn’t. That was maybe the final straw.
‘It’s hard to win high school games scoring two runs. You’ve got to hit a little bit better than we did. Hitting was our weakness. I think our pitching and our chemistry was our strengths … We wasn’t going to beat anybody with just hitting. This team, their hitting was their strength, and we had a couple of miscues in the field that helped them a little bit too.’
North Harrison finished with four hits, three of those for extra bases, with Tyler Schmidt getting two. Kyle Whittinghill registered four strikeouts, one walk, but two hit batters. Bryan Case walked two Knights batters. On the downside, the Cougars finished with three errors.
‘Kyle (Whittinghill) is one of the best players in the area, if you take what he does for a team on the mound, on the plate and in the field, he’s one of our team leaders,’ Parr said. ‘Kyle did not have a good day, but Willie Mays struggled in World Series play. I don’t think one player can dominate it in high school. Kyle was in a couple of situations there, but I would never blame him for that.’
South Dearborn finished with six hits, four of those going for extra bases. Joshua Harrell hit two of four doubles. The Knights erred just once for the game. Bradley Disbro finished with four strikeouts, and relief pitcher Cody Drake had three walks.
‘Their infield looked very well coached,’ Parr said. ‘They’ve been taught by somebody who knew what they were doing. That’s why I bunt a lot of times, so we can create some mistakes. But I really felt we had to hit today. That’s where we were going to score. When that last pitcher came in I felt like he was real hitable. He didn’t throw real hard. He had a decent little breaking ball, and we just didn’t hit him real good.’
‘They had some big clutch hits and we didn’t,’ he said. ‘That’s the game. That really did hurt us. There was a lot of times I had this feeling we were going to bust open all day. Most of the time it comes true but today it just didn’t happen … We did everything we felt like we had to do. The balls just didn’t fall or they just didn’t work. The strike didn’t happen. It was just a combination of things.’
As for the season, Parr said it was a learning year for both him and his team with both coming together in the end.
‘I think they finally figured me out and I finally figured them out,’ said Parr. ‘I had to make an adjustment and they had to make an adjustment, and I think we finally met halfway. I think the last couple of weeks we enjoyed each other.’
Click for photo galllery