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Solid pitching, timely hitting help Eagles get off to a winning start

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By Thomas Barr

 HEBRON ESTATES - When you have a team that you think has aspirations of competing for a regional title, a 3-2 record in the first week can leave a coach with mixed feelings.

While pleased with the pitching and hitting, North Bullitt Eagle head coach Brian Wise was also left with plenty of teaching moments for his baseball squad.

“I liked our pitching,” Wise said of the opening week of play. “We don’t have really what you would call an ace. But we probably threw eight or nine guys out there on the mound and they all pitched well.”

And with the exception of a couple of innings, the defense played well.

However, Wise said there were a couple of wins that the Eagles left on the table.

In the opener against Atherton, the homestanding Eagles got off to a quick start and took care of business in winning 10-0 in five innings.

T.J. Barr reached on an error and Cody Montgomery followed with an RBI double to right-center. Marcel Hull reached on an error and Tyler Shewmaker tripled down the right-field line.

Cody Stinnett’s sacrifice fly plated the fourth run.

Shewmaker and Stinnett teamed up for a one-hit shutout over the five innings. The lone Rebel hit came in the fifth inning.

Competition stepped up a bit on Tuesday when Holy Cross, a perennial regional competitor, came calling.

Blake Hardy kept the scoreless innings going by shutting down the Cougars 4-0. Evan Bickett came in to pitch the final two innings.

The Eagle bats were quiet until the fifth inning. Will Parker walked and Ben Evans came in to run. Jared Abell reached on an error on his sacrifice bunt.

Barr singled to left to score Evans with the lone run the Eagles would need. Montgomery followed with a single to plate Abell.

Hitting the road for the first time, North Bullitt made some physical and mental errors in the 7-5 setback.

“I was glad to see us battle back when we got down 5-1 but we sure didn’t help out Jared,” Wise said of Abell’s pitching performance. “You can’t walk kids or it will get you in trouble. Then the defense didn’t help.”

On the night, the Eagles committed five errors. Parker and Stinnett, each with doubles, and Montgomery provided extra base hits with a triple.

Wise felt Abell’s rocky outing was a fluke as the senior was the team’s most consistent pitcher last season until he suffered an injury.

On Friday, Wise was particularly concerned as the Eagles fell 3-1 to North Hardin.

“That was a game we should win,” said Wise. “We talked about that a lot after the game.”

With some rough conditions around a muddy home plate, neither team did much offensively.

The Eagles got its lone run on an error in the first inning as Clayton Kelly scored following a leadoff walk.

Things weren’t much more productive for the Trojans.

Barr worked a no-hitter into the fifth inning. However, the home team put together three infield hits and a two-strike triple to plate all three runs.

“We weren’t patient at the plate,” said Wise. “Give some credit to the pitcher but we just struggled. You hate to waste a good pitching performance but two hits won’t win many ball games.”

Rebounding the next morning in some windy conditions, North Bullitt struck early en route to 10-6 victory over Jeffersontown.

“Kids probably handle things better than the coaches,” said Wise. “We came back on Saturday and hit the ball hard.”

In the first, Barr reached on an error and Montgomery walked. Marcel Hull drove in the first run with a single and Shewmaker drove the ball over the right-fielder’s head for a triple.

The 4-0 lead was more than Shewmaker would need as he pitched five innings allowing a single run. Kyle Peyton closed out the final two innings as Shewmaker picked up his second victory on the season.

“I’m OK with the first week,” said Wise. “Considering the kids hadn’t been out on the field much (due to the weather) and hadn’t seen a lot of live pitching, I think we’re playing well.”

With a senior-laden squad, Wise said the first couple of weeks would be used to experiment. Playing different lineups with different defensive alignments will not be uncommon.

“We’re looking at who will help us win down the stretch,” said Wise. “We’ve talked to the kids about it and they understand what we are doing. We’re evaluating players every day.”

The Eagles have a big week as they host St. Xavier on Wednesday and travel to Eastern on Friday. Both programs are among the elite in Kentucky. Next week the team will play at the Cal Ripkin Experience in South Carolina.