News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

May 2, 2014

North baseball splits with Center Grove

TERRE HAUTE — What could have been a disaster became simply a minor bump in the road Friday night as host Terre Haute North defeated Center Grove 4-3 in the first game of a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference high school baseball doubleheader at Don Jennings Field. North lost the second game 2-1.

The Patriots gave up three unearned runs with two out in the top of the seventh inning, but the unlikely tie lasted just three pitches before T.J. Collett lined a double to the left-center gap to drive in the winning run in the bottom of that frame.

“A great, gutty performance against a very good — as usual — Center Grove team,” is how coach Shawn Turner described it between games.

Austin Hicks entered the seventh inning having allowed three hits, one of which didn’t leave the infield and another that got to the outfield only because of a particularly brutal hop, and the senior right-hander retired the first two batters in the seventh easily too.

Devon Hensley of the Trojans kept his team alive with a bloop single, however, and Patrick Norris was hit by a pitch. A two-base throwing error on what should have been the final out of the game brought home a run and had the potential tying run in scoring position for Trojan cleanup hitter Zeke Howie.

Turner elected to walk the Indiana University recruit — which also set up a force play at any base — but Josh Hart, who had struck out twice in three previous trips to the plate, foiled the strategy with an opposite-field single. Brett Herndon, who had an outstanding defensive game in right field, was nearly the hero with a strong throw home, but the tying run got in just ahead of Collett’s tag.

Zach Milam made sure the game remained tied with a great play on Jay Prior’s topped roller to end the inning, and Milam led off the bottom of the seventh with a grounder to the right side. He was safe when relief pitcher Joey Drury couldn’t find the bag after taking a throw from first baseman Howie, and two pitches later Collett ended the game.

“Austin Hicks didn’t have his best stuff [only four strikeouts and three hit batters] but he was gutty and did a nice job,” Turner noted. “Our defense that’s been pretty solid all year was sketchy at times.”

Center Grove coach Keith Hatfield could have said the same things, maybe not as nicely, about his own defense — and those bad hops were there for infielders on both teams.

After squandering scoring opportunities in each of the first two innings — “We weren’t very efficient offensively; we try to do too many things at times,” was how Turner put it — the Patriots went ahead in the bottom of the third.

Milam singled with one out and stole second, which led immediately to an intentional walk to Collett. Nathan Will followed with an infield hit to load the bases, and Chase Jones got two RBI when his grounder took a sudden bounce off the second baseman’s shoulder.

North’s third run in the bottom of the fourth was even more of a gift. Hicks got a leadoff single when his popup fell untouched less than 30 feet from the plate, and courtesy runner Keaton Booth was caught off first base but got credit for a steal when the Trojans couldn’t execute the pickoff. Jonathan Eilbracht followed with a bunt single, and Collett got the RBI with a one-out grounder.

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