The LaRue County Hawks had a rough first week of baseball season, losing three and winning one.
“I thought we showed signs of improvement throughout the week,” said Head Coach Eric Allen. “We struggled defensively the first three games which basically cost us chances to win. Our pitching was pretty good for the first week of the season … we walked a few more than I would like but our command of the strike zone will improve throughout the season.”
The Hawks dropped to North Hardin, 3-1, in the season opener (March 12); 2-9 March 13 to Bethlehem; and 3-7 March 14 to the Elizabethtown Panthers. They turned it around March 15 with a 19-9 win over Fort Knox in five innings.
“Hitting has improved each game as well as run production,” Allen added. “I only look for it to get better as the season goes along. We have a unique situation this year in the fact that we lack experience but we have strong senior leadership. We have a lot of young guys who have never played at the varsity level and several seniors who haven’t played baseball in a few years. They are great athletes though (Caleb Canter, Matt Hornback and Kelton Ford), with a will to succeed.
Senior Cole Hughes, who is “by far the most experienced player ... does a great job of letting everybody know what and when something needs to be done. He is our leader on the field.”
Loss to North
The Hawks had a bad case of the first-game jitters in their March 12 loss to North Hardin.
The visiting Trojans capitalized on several LaRue County mistakes to earn a 3-1 victory in a matchup of 5th Region teams.
The Hawks made six errors in the first four innings, leading to all of North Hardin’s runs.
The Hawks returned only two starters — only one was in the field Tuesday — from last year’s 29-10 team, which reached the region final. Junior Austin McDowell started at shortstop and Hughes was the designated hitter.
The Hawks were limited to two hits and five walks, while striking out four. North Hardin’s defense was solid, making only one error which led to LaRue County’s only run.
The Hawks’ run came in the bottom of the third when Hughes reached on a throwing error with two outs and senior Jordan McGaw followed with a triple to left field after A.J. Moralles missed trying to make a diving catch.
“I don’t expect offenses to be good with the late winter we’ve had,” Allen said. “I don’t think many teams were able to get outdoors and face live pitching. The hitting will come. I thought we put the ball in play. We have to get better moving base runners and we have to get better defensively.”
Allen was encouraged with McGaw’s first start. He struck out four and held the Trojans to three hits and four walks. All three runs were unearned. Freshman Colby Skaggs struck out three in two scoreless innings.
Loss to Bethlehem
The Hawks fell 2-9 March 13 to Bethlehem.
Loss to E’town
The homestanding Hawks fell 3-7 March 14 to the Elizabethtown Panthers.
The Hawks made six errors against the Panthers, which led to four unearned runs.
“Cole (Hughes) pitched a great game, but the errors bit us again,” Allen said. “I know we scored three runs. I haven’t looked at the stats, but I don’t think they had too many more than three earned runs. That’s just inexperience and youthfulness rearing its ugly head.”
Elizabethtown took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Hawks answered in the bottom half of the inning on Skaggs’ two-run double down the left field line.
The Panthers made it 2-1 in the second on junior Preston Patterson’s sacrifice bunt after two LaRue County errors and they erupted for four runs in the third.
The Hawks cut the lead to 7-3 in the sixth on senior Austin Hinton’s RBI single.
Despite the loss, Allen was encouraged by the progress at the plate. The Hawks collected eight hits, including two each by Hornback and Hughes.
“Offensively, we’re starting to hit the ball harder,” Allen said. “We’re hitting the ball on the sweet spot. We’re only going to get better. We missed some signs that cost us a couple opportunities to score and striking out is a lack of aggressiveness at the plate, but I’m seeing improvements.”
Win over Fort Knox
The Hawks scored eight runs in the first inning in their 19-9 win over Fort Knox. Hughes scored four runs for the team in a game that saw every Hawk crossing the plate. McDowell, Koy Lindsey, Hornback, Hinton, Canter and Ford each scored two runs; Turner Cottrell, Cameron Dawson and Colby Skaggs each scored one.
Fort Knox scored five in the first inning and two runs in the second and third innings.
Dalton Metcalf had the win for the Hawks.
Editor Linda Ireland contributed to this story.