Flock 1-hits Crawford
The North Harrison Cougars have struggled somewhat through the first part of the baseball season, going winless in their first three games. Their road trip to Crawford County last Wednesday was different, however.
Rival games make a difference. Teams play harder. Players play harder. Attitudes are different. This time, the Cougars brought the right attitude with them and shut out the Wolfpack 3-0 to get their first win of the season and to break up a big iceberg sitting in their way.
‘I tip my cap to Crawford,’ North Harrison coach Cody Johnson said. ‘They came in with a lot of confidence. Their pitchers threw strikes, and they made plays in the field. Crawford did everything I preach every day at practice. Just do the little things, and we’ll stay in the ballgame. We just got a few more timely hits, a few bigger hits.’
‘They threw a really tough righty, a hard thrower,’ Crawford County coach Isaac Bowles said. ‘He was a little bit wild, and I was OK with that. We had good at bats, but we just didn’t put the bat on the ball. That’s what’s going to kill us all season. If we can’t put the bat on the ball, then you can’t win if you don’t score runs.’
Both teams struggled to get base runners in scoring position early. In the second inning, Crawford County senior Josh Thomas walked then stole second and third, but the Wolfpack failed to convert the run. North Harrison managed to get three runners on through the first three innings but also failed to convert a run as the two teams played to a 0-0 tie.
The Cougars finally got on the board in the top of the fourth. Jake Book walked and later stole second and then went to third on a Crawford County throwing error. He then scored on a long sacrifice fly to center field by Jake Morin.
The Wolfpack got two runners on in their half of the inning, but it wasn’t with their bats as Gavin Coleman walked and Caleb Newton was hit by a pitch. Again, however, the Wolfpack failed to get a run as the Cougars stayed in front.
‘I thought we lost one there early on when they got their first run,’ Bowles said. ‘They steal, we have a wild throw-down and then our second baseman doesn’t block it up and it gets away from us. They get to third and the next batter hits a sac fly. Things like that are the kinds of things that you have to do to assure that they don’t get runs. In a game like that, that’s a pitchers’ duel.’
North Harrison put more pressure on the Wolfpack in the top of the fifth inning. Brett Rudolph went to first on a Crawford County error, then Devin Sweeney was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt by Jake Harley advanced both runners, Alex Eveslage rapped a sacrifice fly to score courtesy runner Caden Smith for a 2-0 lead.
Crawford County sent three up and out in the bottom of the fifth, and the Cougars blanked in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Wolfpack looked to have a big inning as Coleman singled and Thomas walked. With two outs, Caleb Newton also walked to load the bases. Sophomore Clayton Sauer, however, couldn’t get a bat on the ball, striking out to leave three Wolfpack runners on base.
North Harrison, however, wasn’t done. Rudolph singled to lead off the top of the seventh inning, then Smith, the courtesy runner, went to second base on a passed ball. With two outs, Eveslage singled to get another RBI as Smith crossed the plate for a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars made two errors in the bottom of the seventh, but the Wolfpack weren’t able to cash in and took the loss.
‘I would have loved to have had a smooth last couple of innings, but that’s baseball,’ Johnson said. ‘In baseball, any team can beat anyone. I’m glad we got a win. It’s something to smile about and be proud about. Again, I tip my hat off to Crawford. They battled. They did not give up. They gave us a run for our money and, luckily, we came out and won.’
‘We took walks,’ Bowles said. ‘We got on base. We had the bases loaded. We had guys on second a couple of times with one out. We just couldn’t get that timely hit. We couldn’t get any hits. We had one hit all night, so you’ve got to start somewhere.
‘I can live with going up there and having a decent at bat and then maybe they get the best of you. We can’t go another game having only one hit and that hit coming in the sixth inning. It’s just not good enough.’
North Harrison had three hits and three errors. Pitcher Max Flock struck out nine Crawford County batters, walked six and hit one. The Cougars left four runners on base.
‘I thought Max Flock did great on the mound,’ Johnson said. ‘He threw tons of strikes. He needs that. He has a lot of confidence in himself, but he needs to just trust in his stuff. I think, once he starts trusting his stuff, he’ll be tough. He’s definitely got the intimidation factor being tall, and the teammates really like him. So, getting him a little more confidence and a little more starts will go a long way for our team.’
Johnson also was pleased with how Flock kept his composure when Crawford County was in scoring position late in the game.
‘I tell him a lot, ‘Just be a bulldog out there. Ignore the elements and just pitch, just throw strikes’,’ Johnson said. ‘Our defense is excellent. I would take our defense over anybody, but the thing is, if we don’t throw strikes, we can’t let our defense go to work.’
Crawford County managed just one hit and had two errors. From the mound, Coleman and Hunter Faulkenberg combined for five strikeouts, four walks and one hit batter. The Wolfpack left eight runners stranded.
‘I’m really proud of Gavin,’ Bowles said. ‘He’s come a long way pitching. He looks like a pitcher. He’s not up there throwing it. He did a great job.’
‘I think our defense looks really good right now,’ he said. ‘We’re making plays that we didn’t make last year. We’re coming together talking about the batters and making adjustments. We’re doing a great job. We could talk until we’re blue in the face, but, if we can’t put the bat on the ball, whatever we talk about doesn’t matter.’
Bowles said he didn’t look at the loss as a setback.
‘Offensively, we see where we’re at,’ Bowles said. ‘Hitting, they’ve had more than 10 at bats now so they can kind of see that it’s not just a fluke.
‘I’ve had one or two … that have stayed after to make cuts on their own. If they really want this, if they want to go back-to-back in the conference, they’re going to have to put in work … ‘ he said. ‘It’s not going to be just from 3 to 5 after school. You can’t get to where you need to be there.’
North Harrison 000 110 1 ‘ 3 3 3
Crawford County 000 000 0 ‘ 0 1 2
W ‘ Flock (1-1), L ‘ G. Coleman(1-1).
Records ‘ North Harrison 1-3, Crawford County 2-3.