FLEMINGSBURG – An issue that plagued Fleming County in the 2017 season was leaving runners on base in timely situations.
That issue took a step in the right direction on Friday as timely hitting and patience at the plate led them to an 18-8, run-rule victory over Bracken County.
The Panthers notched 11 hits at the plate and drew 10 walks in the victory, improving them to 3-1 on the year.
“We’re finally coming along hitting it. We had 13 days off so we’re trying to get back in a rhythm. It’s tough when you have that many days off,” Panthers coach Austin Hart said. “Better than years past, this year’s team is stepping up a little bit more. Previous years we were getting runners on base, just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”
After a rough opening half of the first inning in what may have seemed like deja vu in an 8-4 loss to Lewis County Thursday night, committing two errors and allowing four runs to score, they’d respond by plating six runs on the board in their half of the inning.
“Last night we lost 8-4 without giving up an earned run,” Hart said.
Starting pitcher Andrew Jackson would settle down from there, allowing one run over the next three innings and getting the victory by going four innings on the mound, allowing eight hits, five runs, walking two and striking out three.
“His curveball started getting across the plate. First inning he could only get the fastball across and they were pounding it. After that, he settled down, got the curveball across the plate and they were just guessing after that,” Hart said.
The offense continued to pour on the onslaught from there, plating at least two runs in every inning, including a seven-run fourth in which they drew five walks and recorded three hits highlighted by Jackson’s RBI double to make it 18-5. Jackson helped himself out on the mound as he ended up having a 3-for-4 day at the plate and driving in four runs with a double and a triple.
Meanwhile the Polar Bears (1-2) were able to make solid contact on the evening. They recorded 10 hits, but costly errors and walks issued did them in.
“Our pitchers really dug ourselves into a hole, couldn’t throw first pitch strikes which is what we preach,” Polar Bears coach Josh Cummins said. “But our defense didn’t do them any favors when we did make a nice pitch and get them to hit it. We just need to keep our head up and not let those mistakes snowball off of each other.”
Tanner Fisher took the loss on the hill, lasting three innings, giving up 11 hits, seven earned runs, walking four and striking out six. Travis Tucker and Chris Thomas had rough outings on in relief, allowing seven runs on just three hits, but walked five batters.
Bracken was led at the plate by Tyler Rice with a 3-for-3 day, collecting the Polar Bears lone extra-base hit. Tanner Fisher went 2-for-3 at the plate while Andrew Jefferson had two RBIs.
“I was very pleased with our approach one through nine, our guys we got some of them that are really buying in to what we’re teaching them in practice and it’s paying off for them and it showed tonight,” Cummins said.
After Jackson’s big day in the batters box, the Panthers were paced by Josh Hamm with three hits and two RBIs, Jared Tolle with two hits and three RBIs while Cole Saunders and Jonathan Maher added two RBIs apiece.
Saunders came on in relief in the fifth, giving up three runs on two hits and three walks while striking out one.
Fleming County will return to action on Saturday as they host 61st District opponent Menifee County in a doubleheader starting at noon.
“We’ve got a few people out on Spring Break so it’s hurting us a little bit pitching-wise. Once we get those guys back we’ll be in a lot better shape,” Hart said.
Bracken County has the weekend off before hosting 39th District opponent Mason County on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
“This one’s over, it’s a new day, we know we got a couple big games coming up so we’ll be ready,” Cummins said.