|BUCCS IN MIDST OF A CLASSIC WITH NORTH...
The Covington Buccaneers and the Tri-County North Panthers are deadlocked 3-3 after eight innings in a game that will be concluded at a later date.
April 17, 2009 - LEWISBURG
The Covington Buccaneers and Tri-County North Panthers were in the midst of a classic battle when a deadlocked 3-3 game was called after eight innings due to darkness.
With the game having significant conference implications, the outcome will be decided at a later date to be determined.
"We're going to have to finish it," Hirsch agreed. "Depending on how all the other games shake out this year, this game has a lot riding on it. It could be for the conference championship and if not it could affect the all-sports standings."
And the game deserves to be finished as the eight innings played was as exciting as a high school baseball game could be thanks to several game-saving plays, clutch hitting and outstanding pitching from both sides.
"This game had everything," said Hirsch. "Both teams made some big plays in the field, got some big hits and the two pitchers were outstanding."
Andy Sparks for Covington and Jensen Flora for Tri-County North both put on a pitching display. Sparks went seven innings and allowed just one earned run, while Jensen went into the top of the seventh before being replaced.
"Both pitchers threw well," Hirsch praised. "I felt Andy threw really well. He only gave up the one earned run and gave us seven strong innings. We couldn't ask any more of him than he gave us tonight."
The other two runs the Panthers got came in the bottom of the fourth after what appeared to be a questionable call at second base. Tri-County North attempted to steal and Covington catcher Adam Craft threw a dart to second baseman Kyle Kanet, who laid down the tag well ahead of the runner who never attempted to slide.
The ruling went against Covington and the Panthers took advantage with a double steal and a base hit to score make the score 3-0.
"That (the steal) was a big play because if we get that runner we have the first out of the inning," Hirsch explained. "We got two outs right after that, so the two runs don't score if that play goes our way. But you have to forget about it and keep playing."
Meanwhile, the Buccaneer hitters had a difficult time getting hits with runners on base. Through the first six innings Covington left eight runners on base, including the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
"We never could get the big hit when we needed it," Hirsch said. "We hit the ball hard all night, but we never could take advantage when we had runners in scoring position."
But that all changed in the top of the seventh inning.
Brandon Powell opened the inning with a walk and was replaced by Ben Wilson, who came in as a pinch runner.
Jake Bitner hit a dribbler to short and reached on the error as the defender had to rush the throw.
Logan Woloch followed with a walk to load the bases and Kyle Kanet drilled a shot to left field that bounced off the fence for a two-run double.
Adam Craft walked to load the bases again and Nate Lavey followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Woloch from third, which tied the score at 3-3 with one out.
With Kyle Kanet perched on third and Craft on first, Andy Sparks hit a short blooper into shallow right field that was amazingly caught over the shoulder by Tri-County North's second baseman.
"That was a great catch by their second baseman," Hirsch complemented. "The ball was drifting out and somehow he managed to catch it over his shoulder while looking back into the sun. If that ball drops, we win the game."
Covington then tried a little trickery in an attempt to bring in the winning run as Adam Craft got caught in a run down between first and second to try and allow Kanet to steal home. Unfortunately for Covington, the Panthers made the tag on Craft before Kanet could cross home plate.
"They played it perfectly," said Hirsch. "They got Adam boxed in to where he couldn't kill enough time for Kyle to score."
Tri-County North threatened to steal the game in the bottom of the seventh as put runners on second and third with just one out.
"Any contact by them at that point ends the game," Hirsch explained. "We had everybody playing in because we knew our only chance was to make a play at home if they made contact."
Fortunately it never came to that as Sparks struck out the next batter for the second out of the inning.
Hirsch then intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases, which gave his defense several options should the Panthers put the ball in play.
"That was a big strikeout by Andy because it allowed us to play our regular defense and go to the closest base," Hirsch said.
But Covington wasn't out of the woods as the next Panther batter drilled what appeared to be the game-winning base hit to shallow right field in front of Andrew Dehart, who was playing deeper than a few moments prior.
Just as the ball appeared to be dropping to the grass, Dehart dove and somehow came up with the ball at the end of his glove for the game-saving third out.
"That was one of the biggest catches I've seen in a while," Hirsch said. "It couldn't have come at a better time."
And Dehart had to battle the sun, which was setting directly in his line of sight to the baseball.
"He didn't see the ball the entire way because of the sun," continued Hirsch. "But he just hustled as hard as he could and managed to pick up the ball as it was dropping. The kids said it was tough to see out there, so that was a difficult catch."
As the sun set behind the trees, neither team threatened to score in the eighth inning - leaving the game deadlocked and to be finished another day.
And regardless of what transpires when the game is concluded, Hirsch is proud of how his team battled through the adversity it faced and came back to take the game to a ninth inning.
"These kids never quit," said Hirsch. "There were some things that didn't go our way, a lot of our own doing, but we never stopped playing. Hopefully we can come back here and finish the way we want."
Which would be with a win.
Scoring by Innings:
Covington ..................0...0...0...0...0...0...3...0...0 - 3 - 5 - 3
Tri-County North .......0...1...0...2...0...0...0...0...0 - 3 - 7 - 2