On Tuesday night at St. Henry High School’s Paul Kramer Field, the Harrison County Thorobreds caught something contagious. No, it wasn’t the swine flu. It was hits, hits and more hits.
The Harrison County offense erupted for nine runs on nine hits and sent 14 hitters to the plate in the first inning against Beechwood ace A.J. Smith, driving the Murray State signee from the game after only 40 pitches and after only two outs. Harrison County eventually pasted the Tigers in a five-inning affair, 14-2.
Malcolm Thomas got the Breds offense rolling with an opposite field home run, his second lead-off home run in the last three post-season games.
“We knew he could throw hard, that’s about all we knew,” said Thomas of Harrison County’s scouting report on Smith. “We figured if we swing hard and he’s throwing hard, if you hit it, it’s going to go somewhere. I’m just glad we came out hot. When you start hitting like that, it’s contagious.”
Eric Sanders reached when he was hit by Smith and moved to second on a passed ball. Matthew Dye sacrificed Sanders to second and Christian Chasteen followed with a one-out hit up the middle that scored Sanders and made it 2-0.
Smith fanned Shane Fowler for the second out and appeared to be able to get out of the inning relatively unscathed. However, the Thorobred Flu really began spreading at that point.
Jared Martin singled up the middle to score Chasteen. Drew Thompson doubled off the fence in right center to score Martin. Eric Case doubled to right field to score Thompson. Taylor Hill singled up the middle to score Case. Thomas then got his second hit of the inning to put runners at first and second.
Sanders singled to score Hill, followed by a walk to Dye to load the bases. Chasteen followed with his second hit of the inning, a hard single down the right field line, to score Thomas and Sanders and drive Smith from the game with Harrison County leading 9-0.
“We’ve had a few innings like that this year,” said Beechwood coach Bob Myerhoff. “But that’s the first A.J.’s been beat on like that. He just didn’t have it tonight.”
Harrison County starter Jared Martin showed signs of rustiness on the mound in the bottom of the first inning. After getting lead-off hitter Zach Larimore to ground out to start the inning, Martin walked three straight batters to load the bases and prompt Whitaker to make a pitching change.
Eric Case was brought on and promptly gave up a run-scoring single to Joe Colosimo, but settled in and fanned C.J. Bertke and Colin Johnson to end the inning.
Martin was right back on the mound in the second inning and finished the game, allowing only a single run in the fourth inning to improve his record on the year to 4-0.
“We’ve done that a lot,” said Whitaker of taking out his starting pitcher, only to reinsert him an inning or two later. “Kids have a hard time overcoming situations like that, so sometimes you have to take them out of the spotlight and let them calm down. We wanted to kill the rally and Eric did a good job of that.”
Harrison County added two more runs in the second inning to make it 11-1. Thompson led off with his second double of the night, Hill and Thomas both walked to load the bases and Sanders plated both with his second single of the game.
The Breds added three more runs in the fifth inning to ensure a mercy-rule ending. Sanders and Dye both walked to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Chasteen moved them both up a base.
Fowler belted a long fly ball to left that scored Sanders, Martin doubled down the left field line to scored Dye and Thompson delivered his third hit of the night to score Martin.
“It’s good to get that first one, but it takes two to win,” said Whitaker after the game. “We’ve seen it from all angles. We’ve lost the first one and won two. We’ve won the first one and lost two. You’ve got to forget about the score of the first game and show up and play.”
The second game of the best-of-three series was played last night at 6, also at Paul Kramer Field. If Beechwood won last night, the deciding third game will be tonight, also at 6.
Harrison County is looking for its second straight trip to Applebee’s Park and the Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament.
With a second win over the Tigers, the Breds would advance to the state tournament and would play the last first-round game next Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against either Anderson County or Louisville Trinity.
Trinity won the first game of its best-of-three semi-state series over Anderson County on Tuesday night, 7-4.