LOUISVILLE – Well, it is the end of the season that baseball coaches are aiming their teams toward.
But, for the North Bullitt Eagles, now might be a good time to take a little break, look for some fun in the sun and try to build up some confidence.
Head coach Brian Wise said before the season that he liked his squad. His only concern was that it was a pretty thin squad that couldn’t afford injuries.
With only two weeks gone in the season, Wise is looking for ways to maneuver around some missing pieces.
Cody Stinnett, last year’s most effective pitcher, will probably not see the mound this season and may not have an opportunity to catch. An injury has limited his time to the designated hitter’s position.
Chance Egnor, expected to share catching duties with Stinnett, broke a thumb against St. Xavier on Wednesday and could be lost for 4-6 weeks.
And Mitchell Hutchison, the starting third baseman and one of the top hurlers, will also be out for a couple of weeks.
“We’re not making any excuses,” said Wise, whose team is now 2-4 on the season. “It’s time for the younger players to seize their opportunity and step up. We’re worried about our district games.”
Playing a trying schedule will force a young team to take some early lumps.
On Wednesday, North Bullitt trailed to the artificial turf of St. Xavier was took a 13-0 beating.
It was a day in which Wise’s young lefty, Jacob Kelly, who had shut down Fairdale the previous Friday, struggled with his control.
Kelly, a sophomore, walked six Tigers in the first inning before Wise made a change.
“Jacob does not have a lot of varsity experience,” said Wise. “And he was afraid to hit his spots. We have to throw strikes and let the defense play. It is a big field.”
With the big stage and the name St. Xavier on the jersey, Wise said it is tough for any opponent.
“I told him that he is only 15-year-old but it is time to grow up,” said Wise. “He is one of our best pitchers and he will have to win games for us.”
Kelly was slated to return to the hill in Myrtle Beach on Monday in the first of five games in the Cal Ripken Experience.
“He will respond,” said Wise.
While Kelly struggled with location, Wise said he was very pleased with the work of Tyler Mayberry, who got his first varsity appearance on the hill.
“I asked him if he was scared,” Wise remembered when calling him to the mound. “He said, “no.” And he went out and threw strikes.”
After the Tigers scored nine in the first inning, Mayberry settled down the troops and struck out five in his relief appearance.
“That’s another arm we have to throw,” said Wise. “He did very well.”
Offensively, the only scoring threat occurred in the third inning for the Eagles.
Josh Exton led off with a single and advanced on a wild pitch. Anthony Kennedy walked and Justin Stinson singled but Exton was gunned down at the plate on the throw.
Those would be the only two hits as the Eagles struck out 11 times in just five innings.
“We are taking too many first pitch fastballs,” said Wise. “We are getting behind every time in the count. We have to be more aggressive.”
On its final game of the week, North Bullitt went on the road and lost 9-4 to Shelby County in a came of oddities.
The visitors jumped on top in the first inning. Clayton Kelly singled and scored when the shortstop misplayed Tyler Lloyd’s grounder.
After the Rockets scored three in the bottom of the first, North Bullitt got one back. Stinnett walked and Exton sacrificed him to second. After Matt Hayes, who is assuming the catching duties, grounded out, Mayberry hit an RBI single.
Continuing its streak, North Bullitt took the lead in the third.
Stinson singled and Kelly sacrificed him to second. Lloyd was hit by a pitch and Stinnett would walk to load the bases. Exton helped his own pitching cause by hitting a 2 RBI double.
That would be the end of the scoring for North Bullitt.
Exton, who struggled in the first inning thanks to a couple of walks and a hit batter, settled down to strike out seven of 10 batters during one streak.
That ended in the bottom of the fourth which was marred with a call that Wise still doesn’t understand.
Shelby County had the bases loaded and attempted a squeeze bunt. North Bullitt had given up the run but on the throw to Stinson covering first base, Wise said the runner hit the fielder’s glove and hand. The ball went down the right field line, scoring all three runners.
“Somebody should have been watching,” said Wise. “The play was at first base and neither umpire saw anything.”
Wise wasn’t too excited on his protest. Both teams had been warned earlier in the game by the umpire for fans making remarks. Wise said he admitted that he heard nothing from the North Bullitt bench.
With the warning in place, any ejection would have meant a three-game suspension – and missing some of those spring break contests.
“It was just a bizarre game,” said Wise.
He was pleased with Exton’s efforts on the mound. Known to have his best stuff when the weather warms, Wise said his junior was perfect for three innings. However, he emphasized that walks and hitting batters come back to haunt pitchers.
“What we have learned early in the season it that if give anybody anything, bad things will happen,” said Wise.
While having some of the pre-season starters out of the normal lineup is bad, Wise said he is looking as the next couple of weeks as an opportunity for some of the younger players to step up.
“This is your opportunity,” said Wise.
The team was scheduled to play five games this week and then head home on Friday.