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NH wins pitcher’s duel with walk-off

NH wins pitcher’s duel with walk-off
NH wins pitcher’s duel with walk-off
North HarrisonÂ’s Kyle Jennings (6) leaps in the air with teammate Tyler Cockerham after Jennings crossed the plate for the game-winning run last Wednesday against South Central. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Last Wednesday’s match-up between South Central and North Harrison featured a pair of weather delays and a duel among each team’s starting pitchers.
Lightning was the reason for both delays, which amounted to nearly 90 minutes of silence on the diamond. Light sprinkles toyed with the grass during the second delay, but, once the light show ended, play resumed each time.
Despite the breaks, pitchers Craig Waynescott and Nick Veith didn’t seem bothered. Waynescott would eventually earn the 4-3 win for North Harrison after Mitch Bolin reached on an infield error in the seventh inning, plating the game-winning run.
Through six innings, neither offense could deliver more than a few runs against either starter.
South Central entered the final frame down 2-1 but would take the lead before North Harrison recorded the third out. Center fielder Austin Knear led off with a double. A bunt by Veith down the third-base line eventually led to Knear scoring when North Harrison overthrew the put-out attempt at first.
‘You put a bunt down and force them to do something,’ South Central coach Brian McKnight said. ‘We got it down and wanted to get him to third but managed to get a run out of it.’
Delivering the go-ahead run, Spencer Ray smacked a single, scoring his battery-mate to give the Rebels a 3-2 lead. South Central would put another runner on with a Jack Turner walk, but Waynescott ended the inning with his third strikeout of the frame.
‘Austin is the key,’ McKnight said. ‘If we get him on base, we start off really well. You can do so many more things with his speed on base. Spencer hit the ball well tonight, too.’
North Harrison had its chance to respond in the bottom of the seventh inning and found a way to win.
Veith opened the inning with a strike out, but the Cougars offense followed with back-to-back hits for the first time in the game. Brad Novak worked a one-out single followed by Micah Napper doing the same.
‘We bounced back with some really good at-bats,’ North Harrison coach Jamie Polk said. ‘Novak’s at-bat with two strikes, getting a good solid line drive through the hole was a good approach after he had been struggling earlier in the day. Then, Micah with a big hit in the gap. Kyle Jennings and Mitch (Bolin) battled at the plate. We had a lot of good at-bats in the final inning.’
Jennings grounded into a fielder’s choice but eventually moved to second on a wild pitch, setting up second and third. Wyatt Faith drew a walk to load the bases for Bolin.
He would hit a chopper over the mound, but an errand throw to first allowed pinch runner Noah Yost and Jennings to score, ending the game.
‘I’m proud of our kids because this is the fifth game where we’ve been down or tied at the end of the game and we haven’t gotten it done, but tonight we did,’ Polk said. ‘It’s showing we’re improving and getting better.’
‘We took it, then they took it right back from us,’ McKnight said. ‘We battled with them all night long. Nick threw seven good innings. He had one inning he gave up two base hits and that was it.’
The miscues in the final inning for both teams overshadowed the pitching performance of Waynescott and Veith. Waynescott finished with eight strikeouts while Veith had three.
‘I thought it was two sophomores battling,’ Polk said. ‘It was two different styles going at it. (Veith) was very crafty and changed speeds great. Craig was a little more power with a good hook. It was two young kids really battling on the mound. It kept everyone off kilter.’
Polk said they were well aware of Veith’s potential after hearing he earned the win with a one-hitter thrown against Silver Creek earlier in the season.
Success for Veith was due to hitting spots.
‘If he keeps the ball down, he does well,’ McKnight said. ‘He got a lot of ground balls and that’s what we want. He did his job really well.’
Faith helped his pitcher get a lead early with a triple in the bottom of the first. He would score when Bolin grounded out.
Helping his own cause, Waynescott clubbed a double to lead off the second inning. An error allowed Waynescott to reach third then eventually score on a Jacob Faith sac fly.
The two-run deficit didn’t deter South Central from making comeback attempts. They left runners on base in the second and third innings but put one on the board in the fourth. Turner hit a one-out double then eventually scored on a Cory Ray hit. The Rebels, however, would leave the bases loaded in the inning.
‘We left runners on again. We have to figure out how to score more runners when they are in scoring position,’ McKnight said of his team that left nine on base. ‘Tonight it got us; if we score those guys, we’d have a bigger lead later in the game.’
For North Harrison, pulling out a tight win was uplifting after missing out on a few close ones earlier in the season.
‘It’s big for us to come through,’ Polk said. ‘Big for Craig, too. He isn’t scared of the moment, which is good for a sophomore.’
Wyatt Faith and Waynescott led the North Harrison offense with two hits each. Knear was the lone Rebel to score two hits and also drew a walk. Turner reached three times, with a single and a pair of walks.
South Central will host Henryville on Saturday at 11 a.m. for the Southern Athletic Conference championship. North Harrison is slated to play in the New Albany Invitational on Friday and Saturday.