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Cougars post 2-2 mark over spring break

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By Mike Farner

SHEPHERDSVILLE – It hasn’t been a great start to the 2014 baseball season for the Bullitt Central Cougars, but staying near home and winning two of four games might be more important than heading to Florida for spring break.

     Unlike most area teams, the Cougars stayed at home for spring break. Instead, head coach G.J. Moore opted to once again play in the General Spring Break Bash as Thomas Nelson High School. The Cougars won the event last year, beating Edmonson County in the final game.

     This year, because of some bad weather on the middle night of the three-day event, there really wasn’t a championship game. Bullitt Central came out of its ‘pool’ with a 2-1 record and probably should have played Moore in the final game. However, since Bullitt Central and Moore are district rivals, and already have games scheduled, tournament organizers paired the Cougars up with Taylor County on Wednesday, a team that has not lost a game this season.

     In that final game, Taylor County scored twice in the bottom of the first inning and then kept Bullitt Central off the bases to win 6-0. The game was stopped after Bullitt Central batted in the top of the sixth inning because of bad weather and the teams never really tried to resume the contest.

     To get to the meeting with Taylor County, Bullitt Central had opened play in the tournament two days earlier with a 3-1 loss to John Hardin. The Cougars then had a good day on Tuesday, beating Carroll County 10-3 in the morning before coming back and knocking off Edmonson County 7-6 with two runs in the bottom of the eighth-inning.

     “We’re still not hitting,” Moore said after the four game swing. “We’re struggling. We just have to get better and get the bunts down and not miss signs. We need timely hitting.

     “We just have to do the little things,” the coach added. “We missed two hit and run signs today. You can’t do that against good teams. If things don’t change, it’s going to be a struggle with our schedule.”

     In the opener, Bullitt Central got five innings of work from starting pitcher Cameron Dukes, who allowed just two earned runs.

     However, the offense never got in gear. The Cougars finished with only five hits, but did leave nine runners on base. Two of the hits came off the bat of senior catcher Tyler Bray with one of those hits being a double.

     Against Carroll County, the Cougars had more offense and the maroon and gray got a complete game victory from senior Zack McCauley. The right-hander did give up eight hits, but he walked just two and had three strike-outs.

     Bullitt Central’s offense had just six hits, but they benefitted greatly from some poor Carroll County pitching as they had seven walks and were hit by three pitches. All of the hits were singles with Bray driving in two of the runs.

     All of the excitement for the week came in the second game on Tuesday as Bullitt Central took on Edmonson County. The Cougars scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to force an extra inning and then after giving up a run, scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to win 7-6.

     In the seventh, Bray and Michael Harris singled and then Dukes singled to score Bray. On the play, an overthrow allowed Harris to score with Dukes going to third. Moore was ready to have Dukes steal home, but that wasn’t necessary when a passed ball allowed the sophomore to dart home with the tying run.

     In the eighth, Bullitt Central got a break when C.J. Phillips pop-up got caught in the wind and was misplayed at first base. Bray was then hit by a pitch before Harris was walked. When Dukes walked, that scored a run. After a fielder’s choice got an out at the plate, Justin Rippy got a walk-off single.

     Bullitt Central had eight hits in the game including two each by Dukes and Rippy. Dukes drove home three runs.

     On the mound, Nic Caswell worked the first six innings before giving the ball to Dakota Mason. Mason worked into the eighth inning, but then gave way to Jayme Curtis with two outs. Curtis got the one out by facing one batter and then got the win when the Cougars scored twice in the bottom of the inning.

     Against Taylor County, Bullitt Central started sophomore Kevin McKnight. It was the first varsity start of his career. McKnight gave up two runs in the bottom of the first, but then settled down until running into trouble in the bottom of the fifth inning when Taylor County broke the game open with four runs.

     Bullitt Central had only five hits in the game and left six runners on base. The Cougars had a single in each of the first five innings, but never got a runner past second base.

     The Cougars will go into the heart of the season now after spring break with a 4-7 record.

     “I don’t feel too bad about that,” Moore said of the record. “We’ve been in every game except for North Hardin and late against Bullitt East. We’ve battled and hung tough. We’re just not scoring enough runs.”

     Bullitt Central did not have Rippy, Curtis and Harris for the final game of the tournament after some difficulties with the coach and Moore did not know when they might possibly return. In addition, Bray was ejected from the Taylor County game so will have to sit two games before he can play, leaving the team short-handed for games early this week.