Comeback needed for bonded Bombers

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Dubois County Bombers center fielder Bryce Krizan tracked down an over-the-shoulder catch in the third inning of the Bombers’ Ohio Valley League playoff opener against Fulton on Friday at League Stadium. Krizan reached base three times and scored a run, but Fulton earned an 11-3 victory in the opening game of the best-of-three series. Game 2 is tonight at Fulton, with Game 3 at 6 p.m. Sunday at League Stadium, if necessary.


HUNTINGBURG — Coach Andy Lasher didn’t belabor the 11 stranded baserunners. Or the uncharacteristic four errors. Or any of the other unsightly data that could’ve been plucked from the Dubois County Bombers’ second-largest losing margin this summer which arrived at an inopportune moment on the opening night of the Ohio Valley League playoffs.

After the Fulton Railroaders rocked Dubois County with an 11-3 setback Friday at steamy League Stadium, the Bombers figured they were best served to file it under forgotten and zone in on tonight’s must-win Game 2 of the series at Fulton. But not before Lasher issued a plea, of sorts. It had little to do with the nitty gritty of baseball and more to do a play on emotions for a team that’s impressed Lasher  by forming fibrous bonds in a such a short time together this summer.

“Lasher was talking about how well we all get along together, and we certainly don’t want (tonight) to be our last game,” Bombers center fielder Bryce Krizan said. “We want to come back here and play in front of the crowd again and be with everyone again.”

Irrespective of wins or losses, the head space can be a conflicting place this time of year for players who launched their college seasons in February and have been tied to the go-go-go daily grind of the sport over the last five months. Yet Krizan talked in earnest terms about how the Bombers (29-12) are like-minded in wanting to wring as much baseball as they can out of the summer.

“Honestly, with this group, I feel like a lot of other teams would be ready to get it over with,” Krizan said. “But we all get along so well, we don’t want to stop playing with each other.”

Guys like Tyler Stolz, Bear Bellomy and Jordan Libman, who were strangers a few months ago, have become some of Krizan’s main compadres throughout their summer layover in Dubois County — not that there’s much exclusivity in the social scene on a team where “there’s no cliques,” Lasher said.

Heck, even the coaches are welcome in on the fun.

“Frequently, I’ll admit, I hang around these guys quite a bit, after the games, we go shoot pool, that’s a big thing, they love to play pool,” Lasher said. “Guys get here early (to the field) and they stay late because they like to hang out with each other. That’s always a positive thing that everyone seems to get along pretty well, and it makes everything else run that much smoother.

“That shows in the way we’ve played this year,” Lasher continued. “We’ve had 40 different lineups in 40 games, we have nobody near the top of the league in innings pitched, at-bats, really any statistical categories. I think that really shows you how much this is really a team, it’s not a group of guys, it’s the full squad effort, the way I see it.”

Fulton’s Jake Wikel, left, evaded the ball thrown to Dubois County Bombers catcher Andrew Tanous to score a run in the eighth inning as the Railroaders scored six times in the frame.

Check that — the Bombers do have one guy at the forefront of the OVL in Krizan, who stole his league-leading 37th and 38th bases in succession in the first inning. Krizan’s wheels kept turning a few more times; first on an over-the-shoulder grab in the third inning when he comfortably darted from left-center to right-center, and later when he dashed from first base to home on a throwing error to briefly level the score at 2-all in the fifth.

This summer, Lasher has continued filling in the blanks to what Krizan’s coach at the University of Southern Indiana, Tracy Archuleta, stressed throughout Krizan’s recent rookie season at USI. Speed can take you a ways — it helped Krizan steal 57 bases during one of his high school seasons at Mount Vernon, which was the most by any player in Class 3A that year — but he’s found a perceptive eye is every bit as critical to completing that 90-foot theft.

“In high school I could just rely on my speed to steal,” said Krizan, whose .496 on-base percentage is also second-best among Bomber regulars. “But I think Coach Archuleta and Coach Lasher really worked with me on reading the pitcher and that it’s not all about just using speed. It’s more about reading the pitcher and if he’s going to slide-step or not and just getting a good read on that.”

Krizan reached base three times Friday, and six other Bombers reached base multiple times. Yet on a night that began with promise for the Bombers when Alex Alders and Zack Gray swatted back-to-back doubles for the game’s first run, Fulton’s grounders started finding holes and Railroader bloops found grass instead of gloves. Fulton (19-22) ballooned its cushion from 5-3 to 11-3 in a six-run eighth, forcing the Bombers to face the task of taking two straight games to survive its first-round series. Win tonight, and the Bombers get a decisive Game 3 at 6 p.m. Sunday at League Stadium.

“It might end up being the best thing for us, now that we really have to lock it in and it’s win or go home. Sometimes you get the best out of guys in that situation,” Lasher said.

“I know for a fact how much fun these guys have had this summer, and the moral of the story is if you want to keep having fun, you need to win. I enjoy having them. I don’t want this to end too early, because I think this is a good group to have, they’ve had a lot of success, they won the (regular-season) league championship, and I want them to get to play as long as possible because things like that don’t come around very often.”

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