Surprise innings benefit Bomber

Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — Lucas Barnett had become accustomed to riding pine.


For most of his freshman season at Lee University in Tennessee, the Dubois County Bombers pitcher was parked on the bullpen bench.

But after the Flames made a deep postseason run, Barnett suddenly found himself making three impromptu appearances in the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series — including an inning in the championship matchup. The Flames fell in the title game to Fresno Pacific, but as Barnett said, those spare innings have paid big dividends, and now the Bombers can be thankful that the rising sophomore calls their bullpen home.

“I didn’t throw very much (in the regular season),” said Barnett, a former Silver Creek High School ace who pitched consecutive years against Jasper in the Class 3A regional, beating the Wildcats in 2012 and losing in 2013. “I threw like five or six inning in the World Series and I just got hot and stayed hot.”

Barnett steered Dubois County on the mound for seven shutout innings, yielding just two hits in a 2-0 scamper past the Madisonville Miners on Thursday evening at League Stadium in Huntingburg as the Bombers snapped a three-game skid.

“When you have a guy like that on the mound throwing strikes and getting guys out, all you need is two runs; one, for that matter,” Bombers shortstop Caleb Lonkard said. “We couldn’t ask for a better performance from Barnett tonight.”

It’s the kind of work Bombers coach Wes Fink has become accustomed to from his bottomless bench.

“(Barnett’s) been good all year,” Fink said. “He works down in the zone and establishes his fastball early. Our pitchers have been great all year. I mean, our pitching staff is very good.”

Barnett (1-1) became the sixth Bomber pitcher to earn a decision through the season’s first nine games. Thursday was also the fourth time the Bombers have held an opponent to three runs or fewer. Although against the Miners (0-9), Barnett didn’t need much assistance. The right-hander struck out three and retired the side in order five times. The Miners’ only two hits off Barnett came on a single that squirted into shallow left field and a perfect bunt down the third-base line. In 12 innings this season, Barnett has allowed only two earned runs on five hits.

Not bad for a kid who was barely seeing time just a few months ago.

It was during the World Series that Barnett tallied 41⁄3 of the 11 innings he pitched all season for the Flames. In three appearances during the six-game World Series, he allowed two runs, three hits and struck out five. He said pairing pitches with his smoldering fastball has made the biggest difference.

“The changeup, I threw it once and it just clicked,” Barnett said. “You just keep doing it and it’s just been working.”

That’s the same kind of tireless attitude Bomber batters have been applying to try and lift their flat scoring numbers.

Dubois County (3-6) notched seven hits — its most in two games — but, for the sixth straight game, failed to score more than three runs. The Bombers were active early, ripping off three straight hits against the Miners’ Abraham Almonte. Lonkard (2-for-4) launched a two-out double to left-center and then scored on a single from Glenn Jones. Jones scored a batter later when Joe Redburn dropped a double into the left-field corner. The Bombers exited the inning ahead 2-0.

Dubois County almost added another run in the sixth when former Jasper High School payer Nick Gobert cracked a double and moved to third on a bunt from Lonkard. But as Gobert tried to sneak home during a steal attempt by Lonkard, the Miners caught Gobert at the plate.

Fink, though, remained determined.

“It’s baseball,” Fink said. “It’s wood bats and we’ll put the bat on the ball and see what happens. Just have to keep working.”

Three of the Bombers’ seven hits were doubles against the last-place Miners, a sign that the Bombers are capable of stringing extra-base hits together. And as long as the pitching keeps rolling, the Bombers — who nabbed their first home win in four tries — can at least take their time in discovering the hitting prowess.

“We’ve been throwing well, we’ve just struggled defensively a little bit and I really think we can turn it around,” Barnett said. “Hopefully this can be the kickstarter and we can have a nice little run.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

More on