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Shaky start for young Wildcats

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Henry County baseball 1-2 in opening week

By Tommie Kendall

After finishing the first week with a 1-2 record, Henry County baseball coach Austin Hunsaker said his Wildcats need to play less tight and minimize mistakes in what he describes as a shaky start to a long season.

The Wildcats opened 2010 with a 11-1 loss at Christian Academy-Louisville last Monday night, beat Trimble County 4-3 on Tuesday night and lost to Oldham County 11-0 on Wednesday in a three-day stretch that saw highs and lows for Henry. Hunsaker said it was the first time since he’s been coaching that the varsity team was able to play all scheduled games in the first week, which the weather usually disrupts.

“I think we could have played much better but the kids have to have confidence in themselves,” Hunsaker said. “When we play good teams like Christian Academy and Oldham County, we have to learn to hang in there, claw and scratch, do whatever it takes. I just thought our nerves and intimidation took over both games.”

In the opener against Christian Academy last Monday, Henry started out strong offensively in the top of the first inning to go ahead 1-0. Dylan Hall hit a curve ball to the right side of the field for a base hit, advanced to second and third bases, and scored when Jared Payton smacked a ground ball.

But Henry did not score again as the Christian Academy players crossed home plate 11 times and ended the game with the mercy-run rule after five innings.

Brandon Knight started on the mound for the Wildcats, lasting three innings, and Trent Lucas threw the final two.

The Wildcats were back in action the following night in their first home game, and came away with a 4-3 win over Trimble County. But it took a comeback and an extra inning to get the victory.

Down 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, senior Zach Rahm was at the plate with two outs and two base runners on. Rahm’s hit scored both teammates, which tied the game at 3 and forced an eighth inning.

After holding Trimble in the top of the eighth, Knight was leading off on third base with one out when Jake Hartlage laid down a perfect bunt to score a sprinting Knight in a suicide squeeze. Knight was going regardless if Hartlage got the bunt down, and he crossed home plate just after the ball rolled up field.

“Our players were really excited,” Hunsaker said. “Hopefully winning a game like this one will give the players confidence, especially when they’re in tight games later in the season.”

Dylan Ouellette started on the mound for Henry, Lucas came in as relief and Ben Schroeder closed it out.

Hunsaker said he was anticipating his players reaction to that first win the following night against Oldham County, but was disappointed in the way they came out. Henry was held scoreless and Oldham won 11-0. For Henry, it was a similar performance to the opener two nights earlier.

“We had some guys make plays in the field not characteristic. They were playing a little tight and nervous,” said Hunsaker, referring to both Christian Academy and Oldham games. “We have to minimize mistakes when playing those teams, and we didn’t do that. If we don’t bring our A games, then we’re in trouble.”

Besides their fielding woes, the Wildcats struck out 16 times in 21 plate appearances against visiting Oldham. Schroeder and Knight pitched for Henry.

The Wildcats next two games are both scheduled against North Oldham — at North Oldham at 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday and at Henry at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The Cats will then travel to Doss at 11 a.m. on Saturday. If the weather cooperates, it will be a busy week for the Cats.

“We have plenty of time left. The end of the season is what’s the most important,” Hunsaker said. “The great thing about baseball is you don’t have to linger on a loss too long before it’s time to go out and play again.”

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.