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5th Region Baseball: LaRue faces Green

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By Chuck Jones

Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson stated the obvious following Saturday morning’s 5th Region Baseball Tournament draw. He has been through this a time or two before, so he doesn’t get too caught up in the pairings.

“It doesn’t matter who you play, we have to come out and be at the top of our game,” Thompson said. “Everyone in the tournament is a good team and whoever you play is probably going to throw their best (pitcher). We have to be ready to play.”

The Bruins are shooting for their fourth consecutive region championship and their fifth in the last six years. They’ve been to the region final six straight years, going 16-2 during that span. They are trying to become the first team since Elizabethtown to win four titles in a row. The Panthers won six from 1974-79.

“When I look at the region, they are heads and tails above everyone else,” Bethlehem coach Roger Robinson said. “After that, it’s wide open.”

Central Hardin has won 58 consecutive games against 5th Region teams since a 5-3 loss to Elizabethtown on April 20, 2010. Its last loss within the region against a non-17th District team came to Campbellsville on April 18, 2009. The Bruins are 13-0 versus region teams this season.

“I’d definitely say Central Hardin is the favorite,” North Hardin coach Ace Adcock said. “They have three or four pitchers they can go to. They are really deep. The thing about them is can you score against them? You really have to find ways to score runs.”

The Bruins (29-5) open the tournament against 18th District runner-up LaRue County (15-21) at 11 a.m. Monday at North Hardin’s James R. Aldridge Field. It’s a rematch of last year’s championship game. They have won seven straight games against LaRue County, including a 15-0 pounding May 9.

“We’re somewhat familiar with them,” Thompson said. “But if we’re familiar with them that means they’re familiar with us. We beat them earlier, but they were without their seniors. We’re going to have to be on the top of our game.”

The second quarterfinal, which starts at 1:30 p.m., pits 19th District champion Bethlehem (28-10) against 20th District runner-up Taylor County (23-13). Bethlehem, which is making its second consecutive trip, is 0-6 in the region tournament since 1985, while Taylor County, which returns after missing the tournament last year, beat the Eagles, 9-3 on May 2.

The bottom half of the bracket has an intriguing matchup between 17th District runner-up North Hardin (18-16) and 18th District champion Green County (28-9). Adcock said he plans on starting sophomore Javier Echevarria on the mound, while the Dragons could counter with Ohio State-bound Brennen Milby, a senior right-hander.

“We’ve discussed it and we’ll probably go with Javy,” Adcock said. “You don’t get any further if you don’t win the first one. Our big thing is we have to play like we have the last couple of weeks. We have to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The Trojans are making their first appearance since winning the region tournament in 2006. Adcock said the Trojans can’t be satisfied with getting past the district tournament.

“That’s the conversations we’ve had,” Adcock said. “The goal at the start of the year was to get here. Now that we’re here, we need to change our goal. As good as it felt to win the game in the district tournament, we’ve told them to imagine what it would be like to win game one in the region tournament. We need to change that mindset and take advantage of our opportunity.”

The other quarterfinal in the bottom of the brackets matches 20th District championship Campbellsville (16-20) against 19th District runner-up Nelson County (19-18). The Cardinals, who missed the tournament last season, beat Campbellsville, 10-6 on March 28. Meanwhile, Campbellsville is making its sixth consecutive appearance.