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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Well, it was a nice vacation. The weather was good. The beach was nice. But the baseball left head coach Brian Wise a little frustrated.
The North Bullitt Eagles went 1-2 on its annual spring break trip to the Cal Ripken Experience. A doubleheader on Thursday was washed out by rain.
In the three games, Wise saw a recurring theme – small mistakes or a lack of execution at key moments can cost you a victory.
And with a team suffering from a few missing players, that margin of error has grown quite thin.
In its opener on Monday, North Bullitt got off on the right foot thanks to some timely hitting and a masterpiece on the mound by sophomore Jacob Kelly.
Kelly went seven innings to run his record to 2-1 on the season. The lefty struck out 13 Fairmont, S.C., batters en route to the 7-5 victory.
“He pitched really well,” said Wise. “He got ahead of hitters and we’d much rather give up nine singles than to have a bunch of walks.”
In his previous outing against St. Xavier, Kelly didn’t get out of the first inning thanks to walks. On Monday, Wise said there was never any time he felt ready to pull his starter, even when the winning run was at the plate.
“Jacob was tremendous,” said Wise.
For the game, Kelly allowed just one walk and had a no-hitter through three innings.
Offensively, North Bullitt got four runs in the top of the fourth.
Tyler Lloyd walked and Jacob Kelly was hit by a pitch. Cody Stinnett singled to load the bases with one out. Lloyd was out at the plate on Jacob Exton’s fielder’s choice.
Matt Hayes, pressed into action behind the plate, continued his hot hand with a three-run double. Courtesy runner Keaton Reitz scored on Tyler Mayberry’s single.
After Fairmont came back with three in the bottom of the inning, North Bullitt would score three more times in the top of the seventh.
Mayberry and Anthony Kennedy singled. Clayton Kelly tripled for 2 RBI and Lloyd singled home Kelly for the 7-3 lead.
Fairmont would get three straight singles before two runs would score. But Jacob Kelly got the final batter to ground out to second baseman Justin Stinson for the 7-5 victory.
On Tuesday, North Bullitt starter Darren Harper struggled with his location and Pittsford Sutherland from New York made him pay.
The junior allowed five hits and three runs in the first inning. Overall, he went five innings and gave up 11 runs, six of which were earned.
Wise said Harper was limited in the off-season due to an injury and just needs innings on the mound. As a control pitcher, Wise said he must be able to hit his spots.
Offensively, North Bullitt was able to do little against a team that was undefeated coming into the game.
Jacob Kelly tripled in the second inning and scored on a wild pitch. Stinnett reached on an infield single and Hayes reached when a rundown play did not work. Mayberry’s groundout scored Stinnett.
In the fourth, Mayberry led off with a triple and scored on Harper’s groundout.
The final run scored in the fifth. Clayton Kelly reached on an error and Stinnett was hit by a pitch. Hayes singled for the RBI.
In the finale of the spring break trip, North Bullitt and Elizabeth, N.J., were locked into a pitchers’ duel.
Brandon Johnson got his first varsity start of the spring and Wise said the junior threw a terrific game.
“He got ahead on the count and he made them hit the ball,” said Wise. “Brandon definitely earned a spot to start one of the games this week.”
Going the distance, Johnson allowed seven hits and struck out two. More importantly, he walked only three batters.
Elizabeth got three runs in the top of the first but it could have been a scoreless inning. After issuing a one-out walk, a double play ball was mishandled. That opened the floodgates to allow the three runs.
In the bottom of the inning, North Bullitt would get two back. Kennedy was hit by a pitch and stole second. Jacob Kelly drew a two-out walk and Lloyd had a 2 RBI triple.
That would be the only runs North Bullitt would score.
In the fifth, Mayberry singled and Johnson reached when his bunt was misplayed. Kennedy couldn’t get down the sacrifice bunt and then struck out. Mayberry was caught off second base to end the threat.
For the game, North Bullitt had only three hits.
“We’re just not playing very good ball right now,” said Wise, whose team was 3-6 entering this week’s play. “We’re not executing and we’re just not playing well.”
With a mix of experience and youth, Wise said he doesn’t sense any panic. Instead, he said there is a feeling of frustration.
“We have no excuses,” said Wise, whose team has been hit by a number of injuries. “We just have to execute better.”
Wise has been encouraged by the hitting of Mayberry and the growth by Hayes, who went from the third-string catcher to the starting receiver in a matter of days. Both have provided offensive punch.
“We’re hitting the ball but we’re not able to put hits together,” said Wise.
On a more positive note, Wise was pleased that the junior varsity team went 4-0 on the Myrtle Beach trip.
With another week before the district games begin, Wise is looking for improvement this week. The schedule included a home game on Tuesday and another “home” game on Friday. The varsity game will start at about 8 p.m. at Blue Lick Field on Mud Lane.