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LOUISVILLE - A four game winning streak for the Bullitt Central Cougars came to a frustrating end in the final of the Valley Invitational.
Battling Waggener in the championship game of the eight-team event, a team they had beaten in eight innings six days earlier, the Cougars had a couple of defensive lapses that allowed innings to continue that led to an 11-6 loss.
Still, the spring break tournament was another strong showing for coach Tommy Alvey’s team as they are not 5-3 heading into a week that includes district games against Southern (Tuesday) and on Thursday at home against Bullitt East.
The Cougars continue to hit the ball well and the pitching has been good enough to keep the team in games. The shortcomings have been in the field. Worse, the errors against Waggener came at bad times.
“It was unfortunate because Travis Stepp was throwing a gem of a game,” Alvey said of his senior starting pitcher. “The two miscues came at bad times. We were hitting the ball and had the momentum. We battled back from that 3-0 deficit and then gave them the game. We have to get better defensively.”
Most of the miscues are communication problems between infielders and outfielders. Bullitt Central was within one run and had two outs in the fifth inning against Waggener with the bases loaded when the second baseman and right fielder collided on what should have been the final out of the inning. Instead, the ball dropped and three runs scored.
Bullitt Central lost the game to Waggener despite pounding out 17 hits. Freshman Cody Powell came off the bench to hit a solo home run in the seventh inning and the Cougars also got doubles from Austin Mason, Stepp and Andrew Fleener. Mason and Stepp, along with Damon Shepherd each collected three hits while Dylan Seago and Fleener finished with two hits each.
Stepp worked into the sixth inning, but suffered his first loss of the season. Matt Singleton came on and pitched the seventh inning.
The rest of the Valley event was an offensive showcase for the Cougars who have had at least 11 hits in all eight games so far this spring.
In the first game of the four-team pool play, Bullitt Central smothered Doss 11-1 in a game that was halted after six innings. Stepp picked up the win as he worked five innings with nine strike-outs and just four hits. Johnny Larison worked the last inning.
The Cougars pounded out 11 hits in this win including a triple by Stepp. The Cougars also got doubles from Josh Wood, Shepherd and Cory Brown. Stepp had three hits in the game while Wood, Shepherd and Brown each had two.
On Tuesday, it took a little longer before Bullitt Central secured a 12-7 victory over Beth Haven.
Senior Dylan Seago picked up his second win of the season as he worked five innings, allowing nine hits with five strike-outs. Wood came in and pitched the last two innings.
Bullitt Central had 17 hits in this game including another triple by Stepp. Doubles were hit by Shepherd, Mason, Brown and Seago. Tanner Freeman, Shepherd and Mason each finished with three hits while Curtis Goins, Seago and Brown each had two hits.
The Cougars wrapped up undefeated pool play on Wednesday with a 17-13 decision against Atherton. Atherton led 9-7 after two innings before Bullitt Central went ahead 13-11 in the third.
“We thought it was going to take three touchdowns to win that game,” Alvey joked later.
Mason was the starting pitcher and did get the win despite a rough outing. Shepherd pitched three innings before Larison came on and worked the seventh inning.
“You have to feel good to give up that many hits and still come up with a win,” Alvey noted.
Bullitt Central had a season-high 20 hit sin the win. Mason helped his own case by going five-for-five. Triples came off the bats of Shepherd and Stepp while Wood had a pair of doubles. Other doubles were hit by Shepherd, Mason, Brown and Tanner Freeman. Seago and Shepherd each had three hits while two hits were turned in by Stepp, Brown and Freeman.
Overall, it was a step in the right direction for the Cougars.
“Getting second place in this tourney was an accomplishment for us,” Alvey said. “We’re proud of our guys and we want to keep getting better every day.
“It’s early in the season. We’re right where we wanted to be going into district play. Our guys are playing with confidence. We’re ready for next week.”
After hosting Bullitt East on Thursday, Bullitt Central will take part in a Wooden Bat Tournament at Nelson County. The Cougars will play once on Friday and then twice on Saturday.