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MOUNT WASHINGTON - The Bullitt East Chargers did exactly what a top program should do in a district game.
The home team, which went to the state semifinals a year ago, started early and the bats never cooled off in a 13-0 district victory over North Bullitt.
“We really swing the bats well against North Bullitt,” Charger head coach Jeff Bowles said a few days later. “We hit everything they threw up there.”
Bullitt East had no trouble finding motivation for this game after having lost to the Eagles 1-0 in the regular season a year ago. This was a rematch of last season’s district championship game that Bullit East won.
The Chargers got six runs across the plate by virtue of only two hits in the first inning.
Matt Bowles walked and Shane Valentine reached on an error. Brandon Alphin was walked intentionally and Josh Whitmer made the Eagles pay with a three-run double.
After Chaz Jackson was hit by a pitch, Kyle Ethridge followed with a three-run homer.
From that point on, it was all Bowles on the mound.
The senior allowed just two hits, both in the fourth inning, and struck out six Eagles.
“He was in control would be a good way to put it,” the coach said of his son.
Bullitt East scored at least two runs in each of its four innings at the plate.
Besides Ethridge, Bowles and Whitmer both connected for home runs.
Bullitt East finished with 11 hits with eight of those going for extra bases. Besides the three home runs, the red and gold got two doubles and five RBIs from Whitmer along with doubles from Valentine, Ryan McClure and Ethridge. Ethridge drove in four runs in the game.
The Chargers remained undefeated in district play with the win. The only other undefeated team in the district is Southern, a squad that Bullitt East will host next Tuesday with the number one seed for the post-season on the line.
For North Bullitt skipper Brian Wise, the first inning was a nightmare.
“The worst situation that could happen, happened in the first inning,” said Wise.
He could tell in warm-ups that his team, which had only two seniors in the starting lineup, was tight.
“There was no reason for us to be up tight,” said Wise. “There’s no pressure on us. Everyone in the baseball community knew that Bullitt East should win.”
Still, he was disappointed.
From a learning standpoint, he hoped his pitchers learned that they were not able to come out and strike out every batter.
“We’ve got to hit our spots,” said Wise. “Travis (Ridley) came out and was overthrowing instead of being a pitcher.”
Wise said Bullitt East swung the bats well and Bowles was an excellent pitcher. But he said his players had faced some very good pitching this season.
“We just seemed to be overmatched,” said Wise.
Uneven Week for BE
While the win over North Bullitt was a positive, the rest of the week turned out to be an uneven event for the Chargers as they played three games in the Louisville Invitational Tournament.
Many of the top teams in the state took part in the event which is more a showcase than a tournament as there was no champion crowned.
Bullitt East was in the cube at Pleasure Ridge Park along with Lexington Henry Clay and Christian County.
The Thursday night game against Pleasure Ridge Park, the fourth-ranked team in the state, was supposed to be one of the highlights of the week, but it was no contest as the Panthers scored eight times in the first inning and rolled to a 13-3 victory.
This was the first regular season meeting between the two Sixth Region powers since Bullitt East was moved into the region. PRP did beat the Chargers in back-to-back Sixth Region Tournaments a few years ago.
This game continued Bowles’ philosophy of not pitching his two ‘aces’ against the top teams in the Sixth Region. Neither Matt Bowles nor Brandon Alphin has pitched against either Butler or PRP. The coach is instead saving them for post-season play against the top teams.
Instead, Bowles has sent freshman Jacob Woodruff to the mound to face those top-25 teams. It worked fine against Butler as Woodruff worked into the sixth inning of a 3-3 game before rain halted play.
On Thursday, Woodruff could not get out of the first inning against the Panthers. A key error led to five of the eight runs in the first being unearned.
“That was disappointing,” Jeff Bowles said of the PRP game. “We were not competitive. We’ll have to see where we are. I hope we’re not where we were that night.”
After Woodruff was pulled in the first, Ethridge came on and pitched the rest of the game.
Bullitt East scored all three of its runs in the top of the fifth inning. The team had just four hits in the game with two of those coming off the bat of Valentine. Alphin drove in a run with a single and Whitmer drove in two runs with a single.
On Friday, it was a pitchers’ duel as Alphin worked a complete game only to lose a 2-1 decision to Henry Clay. Both runs scored in the first inning before there was an out in the game.
Alphin allowed just four hits with seven strike-outs and a pair of walks.
Bullitt East’s offense generated just two hits, a double by Alphin and single from Bowles.
The run for the red and gold came in the fourth inning when Whitmer walked, moved up on an error and a balk and then scored on a wild pitch.
In the seventh, Bullitt East had Cody Morris on second base with two outs when Bowles lined a shot to left field that was caught on a diving catch.
The Chargers then ended the week on a high note with a 4-3 victory over Christian County.
Bowles pitched the entire game, striking out 13 batters. He did allow six hits and walked three with two of the runs being earned.
Bullitt East had six hits in the game including doubles from Alphin and Hunter Wood. Bowles and Whitmer each had a pair of singles.
Tough week for North Bullitt
Although the Eagles won its other two games of the week, Wise was not pleased with the overall performance.
“We took a step back last week,” said Wise, whose team is now 11-13 on the year.
On Wednesday, the Eagles hosted Evangel and struggled to an 8-5 victory.
“I was more disappointed in the Evangel victory than the Bullitt East loss,” said Wise. “We did not play well.”
Although North Bullitt jumped on top with three runs in the first inning, Wise was very unhappy with the mental preparation of his team.
Marcel Hull got his first varsity start and Evangel scored four runs in the second.
North Bullitt scored its first three runs as Jesse King walked and Cody Montgomery doubled him home. Will Parker’s bunt scored two runs.
In the second, T.J. Barr and Kyle Peyton walked and Ridley drove home a run on a error by the shortstop. Montgomery’s single plated two more runs.
King took over on the hill and shut down Evangel, fanning nine and allowing just one run.
Wise said it was a game in which he shuffled the lineup to give some other players an opportunity.
“When given the opportunity, we’re looking for players to step up,” said Wise. “We’re evaluating players every day.”
Against Beth Haven, Wise had a few more reasons to smile as the offense woke up with 14 hits, divided among eight players.
“The kids were ready to play,” said Wise of the 10-2 victory. “It was the only game of the week in which we felt good.”
Freshman Mitchell Hutchison got a start at third base and responded with a double and a hard-hit ball that was dropped by the third baseman.
“Mitchell has been hitting the ball well at freshman and JV,” said Wise. “We’re looking for players who can hit the ball.”
On the mound, Barr gave up five hits and didn’t walk a batter until there were two outs in the seventh.
At the plate, Wise was pleased that everyone hit the ball hard.
In the second, the home team put four runs on the board. Barr doubled and Aric Hester reached on an error. Tyler Shewmaker followed with a home run.
Ridley closed out the inning with another home run.
Hutchison doubled and scored on Barr’s single in the third.
For the game, Barr had a pair of doubles and went 4-for-4, while Shewmaker had three hits and Montgomery had a pair.
The encouraging thing for Wise was that the players responded after a couple of bad outings. Also, the hitting of Barr and Shewmaker was important.
“We need to get more kids hitting the ball,” said Wise. Only four players are hitting over .300 for the season.
“We need to get our offense going,” said Wise. “Our pitching has been adequate to good.”
The big game this week was the district tilt against Southern on Tuesday.