Bad breaks bust up-and-down Pats in hitless loss

Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — Clouds bring rain and rain brings sloppy play, but it wasn’t the elements or carelessness that sunk Heritage Hills against Tecumseh.

It was just about everything else.


Whether it was a deep double to right that landed just inches in fair territory or a center fielder making a diving grab to continue the Patriots’ hitless night or the Pats’ best chance at a score being sniped at home after a laser from right field, Heritage Hills’ Tuesday tilt was an example of all the right things going the wrong way.

That double in fair territory in the top of the third inning turned into the only run in the Patriots’ 1-0 falter to Pocket Athletic Conference visitor Tecumseh at Lincoln City, as the Pats were dealt their first shutout loss since last May. In a game that seemed destined for suspension because of consistent rain in the afternoon, Heritage Hills waited out the weather and was rewarded with a series bad breaks.

“With all the pitches we threw today, we threw one bad pitch and the kid hit a double. ... And he’s a No. 9 hitter,” Patriot coach Dave Sensenbrenner said. “It’s a crazy game at times, but you’ve got to overcome and you’ve got to turn the page and play again tomorrow.”

“We were hitting the ball. (Tyler Ward) had a line drive and (Logan) Wilkerson had a nice line drive ... and we hit a few hard groundballs and (Tecumseh was) just making plays,” Patriot center fielder Kenton Crews said. “We just couldn’t find the holes in the field.”

If the Patriots (8-6, 2-1) seem baffled, it’s because Braves pitcher Shelby Beard (2-2) didn’t deliver the kind of dominant performance expected in a no-hitter. Beard did strike out six Pats — four on called third strikes — and had Heritage Hills hesitating at times with a mixture of curveballs, sliders and  “a little two-seamer,” according to Sensenbrenner. But the junior also hit two Patriots and walked four, including two in the bottom of the seventh. The difference was a mixture of flyouts and groundballs, or strong defensive plays like the diving catch from the Braves’ Ty Webb in shallow center off a would-be single from Drew Grass.

Even when the Patriots did threaten to score, as they did when Crews reached first on a walk and moved around the bases on a balk and passed ball, they couldn’t capitalize. Tyler Ward’s fly ball to right seemed poised for an easy RBI with the speedy Crews positioned on third, but a perfect throw from Daniel Pemberton to home beat Crews and left the Patriots empty-handed.

“Should have been a sac fly for Ward,” Crews said. “I was thinking tag up all the way, and I went and I thought I was going to make it and they just made a nice throw.”

“We’re taking a risk there, but I can’t wait for another hit, ’cause obviously we hadn’t got any,” said Sensenbrenner, whose team didn’t move a runner past first after the third inning.

The misfortune continued with another example of the Patriots’ unpredictable play this season. In a span of seven days last week, the Patriots were thumped 9-1 in a loss to Boonville, roughed up Jasper for 13 hits in a 11-6 win and then three days later gave up 10 runs in the first inning of a 12-5 setback to Castle.

The cause of the spotty hitting on Tuesday though was evident to Crews, who noted that while the teams waited out the inclement weather for an hourlong delay before the game, Tecumseh (6-7) was “out there throwing and we were sitting in the dugout.” But Heritage Hills can at least find solace in its defensive performance. Wilkerson finished a pair of gems at third base in back-to-back innings with a leaping grab of a line drive and an on-the-run throw to first after a bunt down the line. Crews also exhibited some speed to track down a fly ball near the wall in deep center. And Mason Becher (1-1) struck out six and gave up just five hits over six innings.

“He’s done that all year,” Sensenbrenner said about his sophomore pitcher. “He’s had four quality starts and keeps us in the ballgame, and if we can score some runs for him, we’re going to win some ballgames for him.”

That will be the challenge for the Patriots over the next week and half, as they begin a brutal stretch of games with a home clash today at 5:30 p.m. CDT against Class 2A No. 6 Evansville Mater Dei and then play their next five games on the road. Tuesday was the first of five games in five days, and the next week brings matchups with conference foes Tell City and Gibson Southern before next Wednesday’s clash with reigning Class 2A state champion and top-ranked South Spencer.

“We’ve got to come back tomorrow,” Sensenbrenner said. “We’ve got a real quality ball club in Mater Dei that has really played well and has some good athletes and we’ll be really pressed to come play a lot better than today.”

“Coach always tell us, ‘You’ve got to turn the page,’ and we’ve come out and beat Jasper and we beat these good teams and I guess we came and ... we assumed we we’re going to win games,” Crews added. “You’ve got to come out from the start and play hard.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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