The Henry County Wildcats got their first win of the season on Monday in the opening round of the Valley Invitational Tournament.
They dropped a pair of games last week to Grant County on Thursday and Atherton on Friday. The Wildcats continued to struggle at the plate against Grant County where they were blanked 8-0. The Wildcats’ bats showed some life against Atherton but control problems for their pitchers allowed Atherton to win 15-5.
HCHS 9, Breckinridge Co. 8
The Cats broke loose for nine runs after struggling at the plate in their first three games. James Pollard got the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 8th inning to give the Cats their first victory of the season.
Brad West opened the decisive inning by reaching on an error by the third basemen. After stealing second base, he advanced to third when Aaron McClish hit a groundball to shortstop that was misplayed for another error. Pollard followed with a line drive single to left field to finish the game.
The Cats fell behind as Breckinridge Co. scored five runs in the second. But the Cats came back with two runs in their half of the inning and added two more in the third to close the gap to 5-4
Breckinridge came back with three runs in the fourth to go up 8-4, but failed to score another run the rest of the way. Henry County scored three runs in the fifth to pull within one run.
The Cats tied the score in the sixth when Landon New led off by reaching on a walk. West sacrificed New to second. New then advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Aaron McClish struck out, Pollard hit a fly ball to right that was misplayed for an error and New scored from second base.
Four Henry County relievers, West, Dylan Adams, Alex Miles and Dakota Estes combined to hold the Fighting Tigers in check after they roughed Seth Williams up for eight runs in the first 3.3 innings. According to Yates, Williams pitched well but didn’t get a lot of help from his defense.
“Seth’s pitch count got up. He pitched well but we didn’t make a couple of routine plays in the second inning that hurt him,” he said. Our big thing this week in the tournament and really for the whole season is to take it a pitch at a time and try to win each pitch. We are going to piece it together pitching-wise all year. I’m very pleased with my pitchers. I told them numerous times that I am going to put them in tough situations to see how they respond and they responded well. I couldn’t be prouder of the way these kids battled back, being down 5-0 and then 8-4.”Yates was also excited about the play of his senior catcher. “I can’t say enough about the way James Pollard has played so far this year. I’ve been particularly tough on him and he’s responded well,” he said. “But it was a total team effort. Everybody stepped up and responded well to tough situations in this game.”
Atherton 15, HCHS 5
The Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning against Atherton on Friday evening. The two runs were the first of the season for the Cats. But Atherton scored six in their half of the inning to take a lead they would never relinquish.
Coach Zak Yates felt pitching was the key. The bottom line is that you are not going to be successful when you give up 11 walks and all 11 of those walked batters end up scoring,” he said. “Offensively, we did show some improvement.”
The Cats cut the lead to 6-5 in the top of the fourth inning but Atherton broke it open again with six more runs in the bottom of the inning.
Atherton got a final run in the sixth and the game was called on the 10-run rule.
Yates was pleased with the signs that some of the team’s bats are starting to wake up. “Landon New continues to swing the bat pretty well and James Pollard and Isaac Steverson had some good at-bats,” he said. “We ended up using seven or eight pitchers to get some guys some work. Defensively, we were pretty solid despite the walks.”
“We just haven’t been able to put a complete game together offensively and defensively. One bright spot is that as a team, even though the game got away from us, we didn’t give up– we continue to play hard.”
Grant Co. 8, HCHS 0
On Thursday the Wildcats again struggled at the plate as the Braves cruised to the shutout win.
“We struggled hitting,” Yates said. “I think right now we need more experience. We need to play more games. Offensively, we’ve always been slow starters. I was hoping that would be a little different but it hasn’t been. I think inexperience has played a big part in it. Even though we have five seniors, we have graduated 14 players in the last two years.”
We have worked hard on hitting in practice but, obviously, there is a big difference between someone throwing in practice and someone on the mound in a live game.”
Yates said that Landon New and Brad West were bright spots offensively for the Cats. New reached base in all three at-bats and had two hits. West hit the ball hard a couple of times and continues to look good at the plate.
Alex Miles who started the opener against North Oldham pitched again against Grant but had some location issues. “Alex started and went two innings,” Yates said. “He could have pitched longer but he didn’t have his best stuff. He was leaving the ball up in the strike zone. West came in for three innings and kept them off-balance. They didn’t hit him as well, but, defensively we didn’t make a few plays behind him.”
Defensively, we have to play a cleaner game. For us to be successful we have to make some routine plays. There were some close calls that didn’t go our way but that is no excuse.”
“James Pollard was a real bright spot defensively. He threw three base stealers out and had a great play blocking the plate at home.”
“We’re going to stay the course and see this thing through and I am determined that we are going to get better offensively.”