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Central starts fast but then stumbles in Valley tourney

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By Mike Farner

SHEPHERDSVILLE – A quick start in the Valley Invitational was good for the Bullitt Central Cougars, but playing two games on the third day of the double-elimination event was more than the maroon and gray could handle.

After outscoring their first two opponents in the seven-team field 23-1, the Cougars fell in the championship game of the winner’s bracket 8-1 to eventual tournament champion Christian Academy. A few hours later, the maroon and gray lost to Spencer County 13-4 and finished third in the field.

It was the second loss in the first two weeks of the regular season for the Cougars against Spencer County.

That action over spring break left Bullitt Central with a 3-4 mark overall.

“We played very good baseball on Monday and Tuesday,” Cougar head coach Tommy Alvey said of lopsided wins over Valley and then Doss. “Wednesday we struggled the first game. The next game we played decent, but we just ran out of pitching.

“We were happy with it,” the coach added. “You don’t want to go into a tournament and finish third. You always want to win, but we can’t fault the effort or performance.”

Against the host team in the first game of the tournament on Monday, the Cougars scored four runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back as they beat the Vikings 13-1 in a game that was stopped after five innings. Bullitt Central scored four times in both the first and third innings and also scored twice more in the second and three more in the fifth.

Dylan Sego was the starting pitcher for the Cougars and he worked the first four innings to pick up the victory. He allowed seven hits while striking out three and walking three. Josh Wood got the last three out and did not allow a hit.

Bullitt Central finished with eight hits with six of those going for extra bases. Senior Matt Craven had three hits in the game with a walk and a pair of doubles. The team also got a triple from Travis Stepp along with doubles by Austin Mason, Wood and Jason Creason.

The Cougars did not get off to quite as quick a start on Tuesday, but they finished strong in a 10-0 victory against Doss. Bullitt Central scored six times in the fifth inning to end the game.

Stepp was the winning pitcher in this game as he worked all five innings. The junior allowed just four hits with six strike-outs and two walks.

At the plate, the Cougars finished with eight hits, all singles. Craven and Stepp each had two hits.

The road got a lot tougher for the Cougars on Wednesday morning as they had to take on Christian Academy, a team that was playing only its second game in the tournament. The game was tight until the Centurions scored four times in the fourth inning to go up 5-0 and they scored three more in the sixth en route to the 8-1 victory.

Mason was the starting pitcher and he got through the first three innings strongly, allowing just one run. That changed in the fourth when he walked the bases loaded. He was lifted for Wood at that point. Wood worked two innings before Dylan Johnson pitched the last two innings.

Bullitt Central had just three hits in the loss and two of those were by Wood including a double. Craven had the other hit.

A few hours later the Cougars were back on the field and had to face Spencer County, a team that had come out of the loser’s bracket after losing to Christian Academy. The Bears scored seven runs over the first two innings and then coasted to a 13-4 decision.

“We used six pitchers in one day,” Alvey lamented. “Playing four games in three days with the amount of pitching we have is a stretch.

Wood got the start despite pitching in two of the first three games. He gave up seven runs in the two innings that he worked. Alvey also got three innings from freshman Damon Shepherd before giving the ball to sophomore Andrew Fleener for the last two frames.

“Those three guys will be fine, they just need experience,” Alvey said of the young pitchers. “We had to throw them out there. They are not quite ready yet.”

Bullitt Central collected seven hits in the loss. Craven had a double and Wood had a pair of singles.

The 3-4 start is light years ahead of last season and while Alvey is happy with the development, he would like to see more offense.

“Right now we’re in a better position than last year,” the coach said. “We’re hitting .247 as a team. For this team we’re not where we should be hitting the ball. Our offense has to do a better job of scoring runs. We’ll work hard to improve on that.”

Bullitt Central will play at North Bullitt on Wednesday of this week in the first district game of the season. The team will then play at Fern Creek on Thursday. A game on Saturday against Jeffersontown is still up in the air as the Cougars work hard to get their new field ready for a game. Drainage problems have forced the team to go back on the road so far this season.