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OKOLONA – It wasn’t the best game of the season for the Bullitt Central Cougars but it did give them an opportunity to do something for the first time in over a decade – advance to the regional baseball tournament.
The Cougars came from behind to defeat the Moore Mustangs 7-5 in the first round of the 23rd District tournament at Southern. By virtue of the victory, Bullitt Central and North Bullitt, who were to battle Tuesday night for the district crown, will both advance to the Sixth Region tournament.
“We didn’t play great tonight,” Cougar skipper G.J. Moore said of his team. “But we didn’t fold.”
In fact, the Cougars staked starter Ben Parker with a 4-0 lead in the opening inning.
With one out, Jayme Curtis struck out but when the ball went into the dirt, the junior beat out the throw to first base.
That opened up the floodgates.
After Curtis stole second, Cody Powell delivered an RBI double. Parker followed with an RBI single and Brad Combs had a two-out RBI double. Casey Goins ended the scoring by driving in Combs with a single.
Parker was in control until the third inning.
Cody McDougal led off with a single and that was followed by a bunt single. Pitcher Pedro Rodriguez helped his own cause with a two-run single.
The Mustangs, who had defeated Bullitt Central earlier in the season, took the lead with three runs in the fifth.
Lennon Radcliffe reached with an infield single and Rodriguez followed with an RBI double. Chris Warner walked and John Tinsley and Robert Moreno had consecutive RBI singles.
Down 5-4, Moore said he was very concerned that his team would not respond.
“In the past we would have folded,” said Moore. “Tonight, we would not quit. That is a good sign for this team and for the program.”
The Cougars got the lead back in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Parker, Jasen Davis and Combs all singled to load the bases.
Goins again came up with a clutch double to drive in two runs.
Up 6-5, Parker faced one more challenge.
In the sixth, McDougal reached on an infield single. After he was sacriced to second, Moore decided he was not going to let Rodriguez beat him. The opposing pitcher was intentionally walked with two outs. The strategy worked as Warner fanned.
Bullitt Central got an insurance run in the sixth.
Cameron Dukes reached on an error and was sacrificed to second by Curtis. Powell ripped an RBI double for the final 7-5 margin.
“We had an opportunity to put more runs on the board early,” Moore said of his 16-15 squad. “We were tight before the game and then loosened up. Then we got tight again.”
Instead of putting the foot on the gas with the early lead, Moore said it is common to let up. What he was proud of is that his team came back from adversity.
“I believe we are building a program here,” said Moore. “Tonight was important for the program.”
Parker, who gave up six hits, didn’t have his best stuff of the season but Moore liked the way the senior continued to battle.
Getting to the regional tournament is important; however, Moore said his team should not be content with that accomplishment.
In facing North Bullitt for the title on Tuesday, weather permitting, Moore said the goal is to win the title and get a better draw in the region.
“We can compete, especially with the right draw,” said Moore.