MARCH 27, 2017 - COVINGTON
This isn't major league baseball where pitchers are pitchers 365 days of the year and they have multimillion dollar facilities to perfect their craft. It's high school baseball where kids are encouraged to play multiple sports and expected to prepare their arms on short notice even when the potential of going outside is hit and miss due to the unpredicable spring weather.
So when the OHSAA decided to implement a pitch count in the 2017 season coaches were left scrambling to figure out ways to manage how and when to use pitchers on their roster.
And for Covington coach Mitch Hirsch, he knew going into the season that he'd have to throw kids out there who maybe needed more time to prepare both physically and mentally.
"The pitch count is one thing, but not being able to get outside and get arms in shape is another thing," Hirsch said. "We've been outside twice since basketball season was over and there is a huge difference between throwing in a gym and throwing outside because you can't long toss in a gym. It's not just us - everyone has to deal with it."
So the result is what happened on Monday in the home opener for Covington as it suffered a 19-18 defeat against New Knoxville where a combined seven pitchers were used in a game that was called after five innings due to darkness.
"It is what it is," said Hirsch. "We were trying to save our top three (pitchers) because we have some league games coming up and I'm sure they were doing the same thing. When you have twenty-seven games scheduled in six weeks, you have to try and manage your pitchers the best you can."
In all, both teams combined to allow 26 free bases - 19 walks and 7 hit batters - compared to a combined 19 hits. There were more runs (27) than hits (19) and both teams committed four errors a piece.
"It wasn't pretty," said Hirsch. "But you use it as an opportunity to teach - an opportunity to work with the kids on what they can do in practice to improve. That's about all you can do, help the kids use the experience to improve. The problem is, you don't have a lot of time to practice once the season starts. You just hope the kids don't get discouraged in the process."
New Knoxville jumped out to a 9-4 led before Covington scored 10 runs on just four hits in the bottom of the third - all with two outs.
The Rangers cut the margin to 14-11 with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth and then held off a Buccaneer scoring opportunity in the bottom of the inning with a great catch in right field to leave two runners stranded.
New Knoxville then plated eight runs in the top of the fifth as darkness began to become an issue.
The umpires allowed Covington one more at bat and the Buccs plated four runs, but unfortunately came up one run short of tying the game.
For Covington, Nathan Blei, Kenny Atkinson and Tristin Sowers each had two hits, while Atkinson drove in five runs. Both Blei and freshman Gage Kerrigan drove in two runs each.
Since the game went five innings it goes into the books as a loss for Covington as it drops to 0-2 on the young season.
The Buccaneers travel to Mississinawa Valley tomorrow to open up league play.
SCORE BY INNINGS:
New Knoxville - 4 4 1 2 8 - 19 - 11 - 4
Covington - 3 1 10 0 4 - 18 - 8 - 4