Eagles still looking for big hits on field

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By Thomas Barr

 MYRTLE BEACH - It is time for the second season to begin for the North Bullitt baseball team and no one is more eager to see the district play start than head coach Brian Wise.

Going through the toughest stretch of his six-year stint as Eagle skipper, Wise is ready to get into district play this week. North Bullitt played Fairdale on Tuesday and will host Southern on Thursday.

“We’re still trying to find a way to win,” said Wise, whose team went to South Carolina and returned with a 1-4 record in the Cal Ripkin Experience. Overall, the team is now 6-11.

Last year, a senior-laden team swept through spring break only to hit a lure upon its return. This year, Wise is hoping that his team will catch fire offensively.

“It was a good trip for everyone,” said Wise. “But it’s time we find a way to win some of these games.”

In the opener on Monday, North Bullitt lost 6-3 to Elmira (N.Y.) High.

In the fourth, Cody Stinnett doubled and pinch-runner Tyler Mayberry scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Stinson to cut the deficit to 2-1.

In the fifth, got to within 4-3 when Jesse King singled and Clayton Kelly doubled. Pitcher Mitchell Hutchison hit a sacrifice fly and Stinnett followed with an RBI single.

Hutchison took the loss on the hill.

The key was that North Bullitt stranded 12 runners on base.

“We just aren’t getting the key hits,” said Wise. “Other teams are getting people on base and hitting doubles to the gap. We get people on and hit sacrifice flies.”

North Bullitt notched its lone win on Tuesday with a 7-3 victory over Patrick County (Va.).

Josh Exton got the win on the mound in going the distance and allowing just three earned runs.

In the second, Hutchison tripled and then scored on an error on a ball hit by Ben Evans. After Tyler Lloyd was hit by a pitch, Stinson singled to load the bases. Mayberry hit a fielder’s choice to plate one run and Anthony Kennedy doubled in two more runs.

“Four runs in one inning...that hasn’t happened a lot,” said an excited Wise.

For the game, North Bullitt collected 13 hits, with Kennedy and Kelly each having three.

In the first game of a doubleheader on Thursday, North Bullitt felt the hitting wrath of Independence High (Ohio), falling 13-7.

The Buckeye team scored seven runs in the first inning as Stinnett had his first shaky outing of the season.

“They just hit the ball,” said Wise. “We did fight back and scored seven runs.”

The Eagles had a chance to make it exciting but a big fourth inning never materialized.

Down 9-0, North Bullitt plated a couple of runs in the second. King doubled and Hutchison and Evans got walks to load the bases. Jordan Burden, who was moved to the leadoff spot later in the week, had an RBI single and Stinson’s fielder’s choice scored a second run.

In the fourth, down 9-3, North Bullitt looked to be in good shape. Hutchison and Evans again walked and Burden singled. With the bases loaded and no outs, Stinson had an RBI single. Mayberry singled and Burden would later score on a passed ball.

After Kennedy walked to load the bases again, a pitching change was made and the reliever shut down North Bullitt with a strikeout and two popouts to end the inning.

“We had a chance to do something big,” said Wise. “It just didn’t work out.”

In the second of Thursday’s twin bill, Fordham Prep from New York shut North Bullitt out 8-0.

Of the Eagles’ six hits, Lloyd collected three. Only one time in the game did the Eagles get back-to-back hits.

Jacob Kelly got his second varsity start and Wise said he threw well against a quality opponent.

“We just couldn’t hit the ball,” said Wise.

In the week’s finale on Friday, Hutchison was sailing through the first four innings until the wheels fell off. Fairport (N.Y.) would plate eight runs in the middle two innings to come away with a 9-7 victory.

Both teams collected 10 hits.

North Bullitt jumped out on top in the first inning as Burden and Kennedy both singled. Kelly was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. King walked to score a run but that would all the Eagles could do.

In the second, Lloyd singled and Evans bunted him to second. He scored as Burden singled.

The Eagles took a 4-1 lead with two runs in the third. Stinnett singled and Hutchison walked. Lloyd’s groundout scored Stinnett and an error resulted in the next run.

Down 9-6, North Bullitt scored its final run in the bottom of the sixth. Stinson singled and Kennedy hit an RBI double.

“We had a few more kids starting to hit the ball,” Wise said of the improvements made over the past week. “We just can’t rely on two players to carry the offensive load.”

He remains pleased with the pitching performances and a few of the relief pitchers are getting healthy.

“Effort is never a question,” said Wise. “We just need to start hitting the ball.”