Bulldogs split the opening week

Opening week for the Harrisburg baseball team couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with two blowouts at home against Vienna and Johnston City by a combined score of 22-1, but couldn’t have ended any worse with a setback in Sauget Saturday as the Bulldogs lost two games to Columbia and Breese Central by a combined score of 17-1 to end the first week with a 2-2 record.

“We’re a little bit of a mystery right now,” said Harrisburg coach Jay Thompson. “We couldn’t have played any better the first two games and truthfully couldn’t have played much worse the second two. Defensively, Saturday, we were not good (with six errors). You can’t give good teams extra outs. That’s something definitely we have to clean up. However, there’s no reason to fret over it. It’s over and you move on from here. I like our team. We’ll bounce back.”

This week the Bulldogs return to the friendly confines of Jay Thompson Field to host McCracken County (KY) (2-2) Tuesday at 5 p.m., Hardin County (3-1) Wednesday at 4:30 and Pleasant Plains (2-0) Friday at 4:30. This weekends Saturday at the Ballpark at Du Quoin High School for an 11 a.m. game against the Indians (3-1).

“Again we’re playing four very good teams this week,” Thompson said. “This is by design. Typically, we try to schedule very tough games early, so our kids get a chance to see some good pitching. We’ll see the same caliber of teams this week as we did last week.”

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde week started with the Bulldogs beating Vienna, 10-1, behind a 14-hit offensive attack and the combined six-hit pitching of Noah Arnold, Brendan Bergan and Cam Ande.

Arnold pitched into the third inning holding the Eagles scoreless on one hit with four strikeouts. Bergan relieved Arnold with a runner at first and two outs after the leadoff batter reached on an error. Bergan immediately walked the bases full, but stranded the runners with a strikeout.

Vienna (2-2) broke the shutout bid in the fourth against Bergan on a two-out single immediately after catcher Jack Ford had thrown a runner out attempting to steal third.

Bergan opened the fifth walking the first two batters, so Ande came in with the runners at first and second and got out of the jam by striking out the next three batters on 12 pitches.

Ande gave up back-to-back singles to open the sixth, but got out of that jam on eight pitches by striking out the next batter and forcing the following batter to hit into a 4-6-3 double play. In the seventh, Ande set down the side in order on just seven pitches on two ground outs and a strikeout.

Harrisburg took a 6-0 with two runs in the second on a two-out double by Ande and four runs in the third on a one-out RBI single Bergan, a two-out RBI double by Owen Rann followed by an RBI single by Reed Rider and a bases-loaded walk to Ford.

The Bulldogs upped its lead to 8-1 in the fourth on back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Arnold and Rider. Harrisburg finished the scoring with two runs in the sixth inning on a one-out double by Rann and a two-out single by Braden Burtis.

Two days later Johnston City (3-1) was handed its only loss of the season by a 12-0 score in a shortened four and a half inning game.

The Indians were held to just three hits with Burtis pitching the first three innings allowing just four base runners on a single, a walk, an error and hitting a batter. Mark Miller pitched the final two innings also giving up four base runners on a double, a single, an error and a hit batsman.

The Bulldogs took a 6-0 led in the first and upped its lead to 10-0 with four in the third and triggered the five-inning short-game rule with two runs in the bottom of the fourth.

Arnold led the 14-hit attack with three hits, including a double, in three at-bats with an RBI and three runs scored. Dawson Griffith drove in three runs on two hits in three at-bats, including a home run and a double. Rann also drove in three runs on a two-run home run and a ground ball out.

Ethan Golish went 2-for-2, including a double, with two RBIs. Rider went 2-for-3, including a double, with an RBI and Ande 2-for-3 with an RBI. Ford also drove in a run on a single and Bergan also had a double.

Mr. Hyde showed up with a vengeance in the doubleheader at Metro East Kickoff Classic played in GCS Park in Sauget Saturday.

“I don’t want to take away from those two teams, but when you get to the end of the week you kind of run out of pitching,” Thompson said. “We pitched some young guys at the end of the second game. They did great. They just had some tough luck. They threw strikes and did everything we asked them to do, but Breese got hot and we couldn’t stop them from scoring. They singled us to death late in the game.”

In the first game against Columbia (2-1), which was coming off a second-place finish at last year’s state tournament, the Bulldogs came crashing to earth being held to no runs on two hits in a 4-0 loss. Ande and Bergan had the only hits.

“The only disappointing thing on Saturday was how we swung the bats,” Thompson said. “We had bad approaches and didn’t have very good plate discipline swinging at a lot of balls out of the strike zone. The Columbia pitcher was solid, but I don’t know if anybody is that good. He totally dominated us. We struck out more in one game (13) than we should in a week.”

Arnold pitched well giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks in four innings. Rann gave up no runs on one hit in one inning and Ande pitching the final two innings giving up one run (none earned) on two hits and a walk.

In the second game against Breese Central the wheels came off entirely. The Bulldogs scored one run on five hits, but gave up 13 runs on 12 hits, five walks and three errors.

The game actually started well with Golish holding the Cougars scoreless over the first three innings allowing just four base runners on a two-out single in the first, a two-out error in the second, and a one-out single and a two-out walk in the third.

Harrisburg took the early lead in the bottom of the third. Ford led off with a single and Golish followed with a double. One out later Bergan pulled off a sacrifice bunt with Ford scoring from third.

Burtis held the lead in the top of the fourth pitching out of a one-out, bases loaded jam, but the Cougars finally broke through in the fifth against Burtis and Ande scoring six runs with four scoring on a wild pitch, a passed ball, and two scoring on one error. The other runs scored on a single and a double. Three walks and another error also contributed.

Freshman Ian Crabb came in with a runner at second and two outs and got the final out on a pop fly to short.

Crabb returned to the mound in the sixth, but allowed the first five batters to reach on four singles and by hitting the second batter giving up two runs and leaving the bases loaded.

Junior Parker Clarida took over and after getting the first out on a strikeout, gave up five more runs on two singles and a double before getting the last two outs on a ground ball to first and a called third strike.