Cougars hold off Rebels
Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The North Harrison Cougars got a win against visiting South Central last Wednesday afternoon but not without a challenge by the Rebels in the final innings. South Central, which has rallied back in several outings, did the same against the Cougars but came up a little short.
“We have all year long come from behind,” said South Central co-coach Brad Wiseman. “We’ve had two wins where we didn’t have to come from behind. In the third inning where they scored three, I kind of sat there and laughed because you know we’re going to make it interesting. In the sixth inning, we kind of made a little bit of a move and then in the seventh inning.
“Like I told them again, we had our lead-off on with the go-ahead run at first base. We had everything you wanted,” he said. “Baseball is a funny game like that sometimes. We were in the position we wanted to be in. It’s just this time at that at-bat we just couldn’t take advantage of it.”
“I’m glad how we played,” said North Harrison coach Kevin Fessel. “We came out and took care of business. We made one error that made things interesting, but I like how we fought through it. We were able to fight through that and we came through and played well. Kudos to them, South Central too; they came out and played well. That was a good game.”
Neither team scored in the first 2-1/2 innings. North Harrison threatened in the bottom of the first but failed to convert. Both teams got base runners on in the second, but neither team could get that first run across the plate.
The Rebels went three up and out in the top of the third.
In the bottom of the inning, the Cougars finally got some traction. Jake Galligan singled but was forced out on a fielder’s choice when Dalton Knott laid down a grounder. Knott stole second and later scored when Sawyer Wetzel singled. Wetzel went to second on the throw to stop Knott then later stole third with Colin Higdon at the plate.
South Central pitcher Christian Kiper was called for a balk that scored Wetzel and advanced Higdon to second. Henry Davis later singled to score Higdon, and the Cougars had a 3-0 cushion three innings in.
“We kind of talked things through after the Silver Creek thing (a 14-1 loss) and I said, ‘All right, we’re starting a new season right now’,” Fessel said. “We won a couple of games on Saturday and won again on Monday against Salem. Last night we hit a hiccup against Southwestern, but we came back and played well again today. That’s the kind of thing you want to see, bounce back from that.”
The fourth and fifth innings went scoreless, then the Rebels got on the board in the top of the sixth. With one out, Ty Jones drew a walk. Wesley Wilson got some help from a Cougars’ overthrow to reach second and move Jones over to third. Jack Schmelz thumped an infield single scoring Jones, and the Cougars’ cushion shrank to 3-1.
North Harrison got that run back in the bottom of the inning. Brody Fessel drew a walk but was forced out when Davis hit into a fielder’s choice. Davis failed to advance as well on a Riley Schneider fielder’s choice. Schneider stole second and third then moments later scored on a South Central passed ball for a 4-1 lead.
The Rebels were ready for one final charge in the top of the seventh. Kiper hit on safely as did Kole Stewart. Both advanced on a passed ball to Myles Bierman, then Bierman walked, loading the bases. With two outs, Jones was hit by a pitch scoring Kiper. The Rebels saw no more, however, as Wilson popped out to end the game. The Cougars had the 4-2 win.
“To have a game like this, how many games have we had where it’s been a single-digit score kind of game,” said Fessel. “This is game No. 4 where both teams have been in single digits. When you think about it, we’re either putting up a lot of runs or they’re putting them up. For us to gut through some of these closer games, that’s got to make you feel good. We came in and had the one error, two walks and a hit-by-pitcher, those were the four bad things that happened to us. Otherwise, we played a really good game.”
“A team scoring early has never bothered us,” Wiseman said. “We’ve never been afraid of being behind. We’ve been behind every game this year that we’ve won except two. So, I wasn’t worried about that. We just had the opportunities and couldn’t take advantage of them this time. Sometimes the ball falls in, and sometimes it doesn’t. Tonight it just didn’t.”
North Harrison finished with five hits for the game. Mason Napper threw a complete game for the Cougars, striking out five Rebels, walking two and hitting one. The Cougars had one error and left four runners on base.
“Kudos to Mason, coming in and throwing a complete game,” Fessel said. “That was huge on Senior Night. It was funny because this past weekend he pitched Saturday against Paoli, and that first inning it took a while for him to get warmed up. After that, he took off and started pitching well. I said, ‘Man, we’ve just got to get through that first inning with you and then you can start throwing well.’ He got through that first inning with eight pitches, three up and three down, and after that I said, ‘Now you’re on.’ Low and behold he goes seven innings.”
South Central had four hits for the seven innings, Owen Montierth getting two singles. Kiper had three strikeouts and one walk, and Bierman had one strikeout and two walks. The Rebels had one error and left four runners on base.
“Christian Kiper threw very well for us,” Wiseman said. “I’m very impressed with what he did tonight. He threw the ball very well. Myles coming in in relief, held them, shut the door when we needed him to. There were no worries there whatsoever.”
With both teams having multiple games left, the two coaches said they expect to be dangerous teams come sectional time at the end of the month.
“I felt like tonight we played very solid ball,” said Wiseman. “I don’t know that we had an error in the field. That’s what we’ve been preaching all year long. When we start the season, it’s a jog, not a sprint. Our whole goal has been to pace ourselves and get ready for the end of the season, and I feel like we’re coming into it. We’re starting to play some of the best baseball that we’ve played, and we’ll get it figured out.”
“When we see these close games and we’re able to stay on top and pull it through,” Fessel said. “In our sectional, that’s the kind of games we’re going to see. That’s the kind of games we have to be able to play and be able to react to any of those situations. I think we’re getting better. We’re starting to play some baseball.”
“We’re going to be a tough out in the tournament,” he said. “We’ve got some guys that are ready to play, eight seniors that’s counting it down, and they’re starting to realize it a little bit. I think it’s going to be time for us to shine.”
South Central 000 001 1 – 2 4 1
North Harrison 003 001 X – 4 5 1
W-Napper, L-Kiper; 1B- Stewart (SC), Napper (NH), Galligan (NH), Wetzel (NH), Higdon (NH), Davis (NH), Montierth (SC) 2, Schmelz (SC).