Cougars need a 'mulligan', but then get it right

-A A +A
By Mike Farner

SHEPHERDSVILLE - If baseball were golf, then the Bullitt Central Cougars needed a ‘mulligan’ to start the 2009 season.

On opening day, nothing went right for the maroon and gray as they gave up 13 runs in the bottom of the first inning during a 20-1 loss to Sixth Region rival DeSales.

While there are no ‘mulligans’ when it comes to baseball, the Cougars quickly put that game out of mind. The rest of the week turned out much better as coach Tommy Alvey’s team was competitive in a 7-6 loss to Spencer County and then beat Moore 6-2.

“We’ve already forgot about the first one,” Alvey said over the weekend as his team prepared to play in the Valley Invitational over spring break.

It was just one of those days against DeSales. Starting pitcher Austin Mason warmed up just fine, but then had some first-game jitters. In addition, a day later DeSales would score 12 runs, albeit in a 15-12 loss to Sixth Region power Bullitt East.

“If anything could go wrong that day, it did go wrong,” Alvey said of the start of his third season at the helm. “We weren’t worried. We knew it wasn’t indicative of our season. We told them after the game just to forget it and move on.”

Mason did not get an out in the game. Alvey left him in long enough to face each DeSales’ batter once. The junior walked six of those batters and allowed three hits.

“Austin looked great in the bullpen and then had trouble throwing strikes,” Alvey said. “This early in the season we left him in and he couldn’t find the zone.”

After pulling Mason, sophomore Josh Wood pitched two innings and then sophomore Dylan Johnson closed out the game before it was stopped after five innings by the ‘mercy’ rule.

Bullitt Central had just one hit in the game, a double off the bat of senior Logan Heath in the fourth inning. The lone Bullitt Central run came in the fifth when senior Craig Spriggs walked and then moved up on a pass ball. Josh Waters then hit a ground ball to the shortstop who threw it wildly to first base, allowing Spriggs to score.

A day later, the Cougars got off to a much better start in Taylorsville against Spencer County. Bullitt Central scored three times in the top of the first and after falling behind 5-3, battled back to tie the game in the top of the fourth. The Bears scored twice in the bottom of the fourth and then hung one for the win.

Alvey was pleased with the way his team kept fighting until the end.

“Compared to last year, I don’t recall one game where we put up a fight in the last few innings,” the coach said. “We were pleased as coaches to see us come back. We did think we got a little complacent after the first inning.

“We would like to see us be more aggressive of offense,” Alvey added. “I think we can score nine or ten runs on teams. I’m looking for more run production. We have the team that can do that.”

The starting pitcher on Tuesday was junior Dylan Seago who worked into third inning. He allowed five hits while striking out two and walking one. Freshman Damon Shepherd then worked two and a third inning and took the loss, allowing one home run.

Because he threw just one inning the day before, Mason could come back the next day and he got the last three outs against the Bears to regain some of his lost confidence.

Bullitt Central had nine hits in the loss including doubles by Wood and senior Matt Craven. Craven had three hits in the game while Shepherd had a pair of singles.

The first win of the season came on Friday at Moore as the Cougars scored three times in each of the first two innings to beat the Mustangs 6-2.

It was a big day for junior pitcher Travis Stepp has he carried a no hitter deep into the seventh inning. He did allow three hits in the seventh and both of the Moore runs scored at that time.

“Travis was tiring down and I was had a discussion with him,” Alvey said. “He convinced me to throw the seventh and I thought he earned it.

“He didn’t throw many pitches at all,” the coach said. “He was very consistent. I don’t recall the exact pitch count, but he was around 75 pitches.”

Stepp finished the game with 13 strikeouts while walking five and giving up three hits.

Most of the Bullitt Central offense came in the first two innings. The Cougars finished with seven hits including a double by senior Jason Creason. The team also got three hits and a walk from Craven.

“They have a lot of errors and walks,” Alvey admitted. “We had a lot of guys on base. We had chances to blow it open and we couldn’t get it done.”

After winning just five games last season, and only one of those in the first half of the season, getting a win in the first week of the season was a positive for the Cougars.

“We definitely have the monkey off our back,” Alvey said. “The kids are getting excited. We’re getting better every day. The offense is better.

“We just don’t want to get complacent with the lead,” the coach added. “We want to be strong for seven innings.”

Bullitt Central will be playing over spring break in the Valley Invitational Play in the double-elimination event started on Monday with the championship game set for Thursday afternoon.