Eagles open the season with split of four games

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By Thomas Barr

 HEBRON ESTATES – As the snowflakes fluttered to the ground, the North Bullitt baseball team was probably thinking of next week’s trip to Myrtle Beach.

In its opening week of the season, veteran coach Brian Wise had mixed reviews as the Eagles completed a 2-2 campaign.

When North Bullitt played solid defense, it won. When it didn’t, it lost.

Defense wasn’t the issue in the first game of the season – a real home contest against Beth Haven.

Behind 21 hits, North Bullitt defeated Beth Haven 23-1.

Darren Harper got the victory with two innings of work. Josh Exton, Brandon Johnson and Keaton Reitz all threw an inning.

While pleased that his Eagles took care of business, Wise was very pleased that the nine-run first inning got started after two batters were out.

With Justin Stinson and Tyler Lloyd at the corners, Stinson scored on a wild pitch. Mitchell Hutchison had an RBI single, Jacob Kelly and Logan Wyatt both walked and Chance Egnor had a 2 RBI double.

Tyler Mayberry followed with an RBI single and went to third on an error. Anthony Kennedy reached on an error and scored on Stinson’s double. Clayton Kelly ended the inning with an RBI single.

The offense continued as Stinson hit a grand slam in the second. The junior second baseman accounted for 8 RBI on the day. Clayton Kelly added a three-run homer in the fourth.

Traveling to Shelbyville on Thursday to face Collins, North Bullitt players hit the ball well. The problem was each shot seemed to find the glove of the opponent.

North Bullitt fell 10-0 in six innings to the state’s 11th-ranked team.

“We did not swing the bats poorly,” said Wise. “Collins is a good team.”

What North Bullitt didn’t do as well as field the ball.

The Eagles committed five errors in the game.

Hutchison started on the hill and pitched three innings, giving up two runs, one of which was earned.

Exton and Johnson followed on the mound.

“They didn’t sting the ball,” Wise said of Collins. “They hit the ball in the right spot.”

On Friday, North Bullitt went on the road again to face former district foe Fairdale.

Facing the ace of the Bulldog staff in Boo Crabtree, Wise knew it would be a battle.

North Bullitt got onto the scoreboard in the third inning. With one out, Kennedy singles and went to second on an error. With two outs, Clayton Kelly hit an opposite-field homer for the 2-0 lead.

In the third, North Bullitt would score its final two runs. Cody Stinnett reached on an error at third. Egnor was hit by a pitch. Exton’s double plated Stinnett and courtesy runner Reitz.

That was more than enough runs for Jacob Kelly. The lefty allowed just an infield single in five innings. The sophomore struck out nine Bulldog batters and faced the minimum of 15 hitters.

Johnson came in and fanned five of the six batters he faced.

“Jacob had a terrific outing,” said Wise. “He got ahead of hitters and he threw strikes.”

Johnson, a junior, hit three batters, including the first two of the seventh inning. Wise was impressed that the right-hander came back and struck out Crabtree and the next two batters to end the game.

“We will need Brandon to win some games for us this season,” said Wise. “I was proud the way he came back and shut Fairdale down.”

The Eagles closed out the week with an extra-inning 7-6 loss to Jeffersontown.

The visitors got on the scoreboard first with three runs in the top of the second. Stinnett walked and Egnor’s sacrifice attempt was misplayed. Mayberry’s fielder’s choice grounder plated Stinnett. Kennedy’s RBI single scored courtesy runner Reitz. The senior centerfielder then stole second and went to third on a bad throw. He would score the third run on a wild pitch.

The lead was short-lived as the Chargers scored five in the bottom of the second. Exton came on in relief of Harper to shut down Jeffersontown.

Down 6-3, North Bullitt came back to tie the contest in the sixth.

Stinnett doubled and Egnor walked. Mayberry’s bunt single loaded the bases.

Kennedy’s triple cleared the bases and tied the score at 6-6.

With good speed at third and an excellent bunter at the plate in Stinson, Wise said he probably was wrong in going against the odds. With no outs, Stinson couldn’t put the bunt down and Kennedy was out at the plate.

After a Stinson groundout, Clayton Kelly hit a two-out double but was stranded at second.

“I told the guys that this one was on me,” said Wise. “I felt we had the momentum and we had the right guys in the right position. It just didn’t work.”

Jeffersontown would reach Hutchison for an unearned run in the eighth. An error was followed by a sacrifice, a wild pitch, two intentional walks to set up the force and a game-winning single.

In the game, North Bullitt had three costly errors.

“I know our defense will get better,” said Wise. “I am disappointed with the defense the first week but we will get better.”

He is pleased with the pitching and the hitting has been good.

“We need to make winning a habit,” said Wise.

The Eagles were to play Butler on Tuesday, weather permitting, and then went on the road to St. Xavier on Wednesday and Shelby County on Friday. The Cal Ripkin Experience in Myrtle Beach will include five games.