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Cougars fall to flawless West Vigo

Cougars fall to flawless West Vigo
Cougars fall to flawless West Vigo
North Harrison's Haynes Perry legs out an infield single Thursday against West Vigo. The senior attempted to advance to second on an errant throw but was called out. (Photo by Brian Smith)

Two postponements and two lengthy bus rides later, North Harrison finally was able to play its regional baseball game Thursday in a more timely manner at West Vigo.
The game took a speedy 90 minutes to play, as host West Vigo used an inning of small ball and an inning of timely hitting to end the Cougars’ season with a 7-0 win.
‘Timely hits,’ North Harrison coach Greg Oppel said. ‘It’s a game of breaks. First two innings we hit the ball as hard as we have against anybody, but it was right to somebody. We had some base runners but didn’t get that timely hit, and they did.’
The score was no indication of how close the game actually was. North Harrison kept the West Vigo offense at bay the first three innings. Starting pitcher Cody Johnson mowed through the first nine hitters without allowing a base runner to reach.
In the first three innings, the Cougars also missed a few opportunities to put a run on the board. With a runner on and two outs in the first, Adam Kiesler roped a single to put runners on the corners. West Vigo pitcher Jordan Pearson then struck out Jim Bob Schuler to end the threat.
North Harrison then fell victim to West Vigo’s outstanding defense in the second inning. Haynes Perry attempted to turn his single into a double after an errant throw, but was thrown out at second.
Hard luck then hit the Cougars in the third inning. Marcus Stone led off the inning with a single. Jordan Byrne then faked a sacrifice bunt and blistered a two-hop ground ball directly at the West Vigo second baseman. The hard hit ball turned into a double play, thwarting a possible big inning.
‘Right at him,’ described Oppel. ‘This is by far the best fielding team I’ve seen all year. Every time we thought a ball might be in the hole, they were there. They are well-coached and well-disciplined at the plate.’
West Vigo’s offense came around in the fourth inning. Drew Aff led off the inning with a single down the left-field line. Pearson followed by pulling back on a bunt attempt and lacing a single through the infield. A double steal followed by Cameron Fagg drawing a walk to load the bases set up a Jeremy Lucas sacrifice fly to center. He was followed by a successful squeeze bunt by Tyler Wampler to score two in the fourth.
‘We fielded the ball well and made some nice plays,’ Oppel said. ‘They bunt well, and we had to make nice plays just to get their guys out on sacrifice bunts.’
In the fifth inning, West Vigo put together four consecutive hits with two outs to add five runs to their total. Aff and Pearson had RBI singles, followed by a Fagg double. Clean-up hitter Jeremy Lucas capped the inning with a towering two-run homer over the left-field fence.
‘Cody got rattled just a bit,’ Oppel said. ‘I haven’t seen that all year. He left some pitches up, which is not normal and they made him pay.’
With the lead, Pearson cruised in the final four innings. The lone Cougar runner to reach base in that span was Geswein with a single in the sixth inning. Pearson wasn’t overpowering, striking out four, but rather efficient. He induced 10 ground-ball outs, utilizing a strong defense behind him.
‘They kind of took us out of our game,’ Oppel said. ‘Their pitcher was all around the plate. We didn’t take as many pitches, but it is hard to take a lot of pitches when that kid is throwing a lot of strikes. That third inning, I got our guys together and said to swing the bat because he is throwing nothing but strikes. They swing the bat well, but this is the best fielding team I’ve seen this year.’
Johnson struck out three for North Harrison, allowing seven runs on seven hits, his roughest outing of the season. He finished the season with an 8-4 record overall.
Oppel said a key to the game was speed. Once West Vigo was able to get runners on, they were on the move either stealing bases or moving on hit and runs.
‘We didn’t hold runners that well,’ the Cougar skipper said. ‘Every coach I talked to said this team had a lot of speed. A team like this, we need to keep runners close, and we just didn’t do a good enough job of that.’
The loss ends North Harrison’s season with a 15-12 record, a season that came together the second half of the season.
‘This senior group is something special,’ Oppel said. ‘We lost seven senior starters last year and we replaced them with six seniors and a freshman starting. These boys worked their butts off because I am demanding. Everybody in the stands know how demanding I am. I don’t expect anything less than for them to get better and get to this spot. I fully expect to get here next year.’
West Vigo lost to Crawfordsville 9-3 in the first semi-state game Saturday at Jasper. Crawfordsville is in the Class 3A title game and will face Mishawaka Marian at Victory Field in Indianapolis at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
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