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Ridin' a wave

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Connersville senior Bryce Cloyd goes through his motion on the mound for the Spartans Wednesday night against New Palestine at Spartan Field. Cloyd and teammate Damien Bowling combined on a six-hitter against the Dragons, helping the Spartans pull out a 6-4 victory. The win was CHS’ third straight.
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Connersville’s Gabe Morris, left, calls off Rinaro Ura (7) in the outfield during the fifth inning of CHS’ game against New Palestine at Spartan Field on Wednesday. The Spartans defeated the visiting Dragons 6-4. It was Connersville’s first win over New Pal in four years.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Early in the 2019 season for the Connersville High School baseball team, it’s not really about who steps up from one game to the next, whether it be on the mound, in the field, or at the plate.

All that matters is that the job gets done.

After falling in its first two games, the Spartan hardballers have strung together a trio of wins. 

The first came over Class 3A 10th-ranked Batesville, a 2-0 shutout last week. CHS followed that up with a 5-2 win over Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Franklin County on Monday.

On Wednesday evening, Connersville added New Palestine to the list, the 6-4 victory a first for CHS over the Dragons in four years (9-8, April 30, 2015).

“Right now, everything is kind of falling into place for us,” first-year Connersville coach Michael Thompson said, following the win. “This is going to go a long way toward the kids’ confidence. New Pal was ranked at the top all of last season.

“We didn’t see their top pitchers, due to the fact that they have conference games coming up on Friday. That said, I’m not taking anything away from how good a team they are or how big this win is for our kids.”

In Wednesday’s win, Bryce Cloyd and Damien Bowling combined on a six-hitter, allowing Thompson to check pitching off his list.

“We got another very good start from Bryce Cloyd, he pitched very well,” he said. “Damien (Bowling) then came in and closed the door with four good innings.

“We don’t have anyone in the rotation who will overpower you. What we do have right now is a bunch of guys who will go out there and throw a bunch of strikes. They’ve cut down on their walks, and are doing a great job with location and mixing up their speeds.”

In the field, Connersville was solid as well, as the Spartans kept mistakes to a minimum (one error), backing up Cloyd and Bowling.

“Defensively, we’re playing very well right now as well,” Thompson said, adding, “I believe that as we go along, defense is going to become one of the true strengths of this team.”

Finally, at the plate, Thompson’s checklist was complete, as the Spartans slapped around 11 hits for a second consecutive contest. Colton Massey, Damien Bowling, Gabe Morris and Landon Cerqua collected two each. The latter two drove in two runs apiece.

“It’s also good to see our bats coming to life,” the CHS coach said. “We’re starting to hit the ball harder.”

While hitting the ball hard is a great thing, Thompson added that there are other aspects in the batter’s box that are going well.

“We’re really executing at the plate. I believe that every time I have called for a bunt to this point in the season, we’ve gotten the bunt down and have moved the runner over.

True to those words, Thompson got two sacrifices against the Dragons on Wednesday, one from Massey and another from Brett Gray.

“We’re going to be a small-ball team. My motto is get ‘em on and move ‘em over. The kids have really bought into that, and we’re seeing that effort from everyone on the team.”

The three-game winning streak is Connersville’s first since 2015 (May 16-20).

Thompson says that the confidence is showing.

“I think the kids are starting to believe a little bit, and everyone is contributing,” he said. “You can really see it on the kids’ faces, they’re starting to believe in themselves.”

Connersville took aim at making it four straight on Thursday, hosting Franklin County for the second EIAC tilt for the two teams (results not available at press time). CHS is next in action at North Decatur on Saturday. The Spartans will play the host Chargers and South Ripley in a pair of games.

 

SPARTANS 6, DRAGONS 4

(at Spartan Field)

New Palestine 001 210 0 — 4 6 3

Connersville 103 011 x — 6 11 1

WP: Damien Bowling

LP: Jaden Jaques

New Palestine (2-4) — Colby Jenkin 1-3, Trevor Rush 2-4, Jack Walker 1-4, Aven Jones 0-3, Jacob Bain 1-4, Zach Neligh 0-0, Luke Greene 0-2, Noah Mack 0-1, Eric Roudebush 1-2, Grant Wiegand 0-2, Brendon Tabor 0-1, Henry Giesler 0-2, Josh Jaques 0-0, Jaden Jaques 0-0. TOTALS 6-28 (.214).

Connersville (3-2) — Rintaro Ura 1-3, Cody Friend 0-2, Colton Massey 2-3, Max Crank 1-4, Dylan Logan 1-4, Gabe Morris 2-4, Landon Cerqua 2-4, Brett Gray 0-1, Gavin Lynch 0-1, Damien Bowling 2-2, Brayson McQueen 0-0. TOTALS 11-28 (.393).

2B — New Palestine 2 (Bain, Roudebush), Connersville 1 (Bowling). RBI — New Palestine 4 (Rush 2, Jones, Roudebush), Connersville 6 (Morris 2, Cerqua 2, Logan, Bowling). Runs — New Palestine 4 (Jenkin, Neligh, Roudebush, Wiegand), Connersville 6 (Massey 2, Morris 2, Friend, Crank). Stolen base — New Palestine 1 (Rush), Connersville 1 (Morris). Caught stealing — Connersville 1 (Bowling). Sacrifice — Connersville 2 (Gray, Massey). Hit by pitch — New Palestine 1 (Wiegand), Connersville 1 (Friend). Base on balls — New Palestine 3 (Jenkin, Jones, Roudebush), Connersville 3 (Ura, Friend, Gray). Strike outs — New Palestine 5 (Bain 2, Walker, Wiegand, Tabor), Connersville 4 (Ura, Crank, Morris, Cerqua). Error — New Palestine 3 (Roudebush 2, Wiegand), Connersville 1 (Cloyd). Left on base — New Palestine 7, Connersville 10.