After two weeks, the Bulldogs are still battling inconsistency

Inconsistent hitting has been an issue this season and last week it was front and center with the Harrisburg baseball team going from winning 15-0 in four innings to being no-hit in splitting its four games to finish the first two weeks of the season with a 4-4 record.

“I don’t know what to say except we’re just not swinging the bat very well right now,” said Harrisburg coach Jay Thompson. “Our pitching has been good — it’s kept us in every game — but we’re giving up too many runs on errors.”

This week the Bulldogs return to The Jay to host Eldorado (0-4) Tuesday a 4:30 p.m., Grant Community (4-0) from north of Chicago Wednesday at 4 p.m. and Mount Vernon (2-5) Friday at 4:30 p.m.

“I think this is the only Saturday we have off,” Thompson said. “I’m just looking for our kids to start playing better. It doesn’t matter who we play we have to play well.”

After scoring 22 runs on 28 hits to win their first two games, the Bulldogs fell to earth two Saturdays ago at the Metro East Kickoff Classic played in GCS Park in Sauget losing two games being held to two hits in a 4-0 loss to Columbia and five hits in a 13-1 loss to Breese Central.

Last Tuesday the Bulldogs offensive woes continued with a vengeance back at The Jay when Alex Calhoun of the McCracken County Mustangs (4-2) tossed an almost perfect no-hitter to beat the Bulldogs, 5-0. The last time Harrisburg was no-hit was against Teutopolis in the 2019 2A Super-Sectionals. The Bulldogs finished that season with a 30-9 record.

Starting pitcher for the Bulldogs was Noah Arnold (3), who pitched the entire 7-inniing game, allowing no runs and striking out 8 batters in the 3-0 victory. Jeff Jones photo

Calhoun was in complete control from the first pitch — a called strike — to the last pitch — a swinging third strike — throwing just 76 pitches with 48 being strikes. He averaged just three pitches per batter he faced and finished with eight strikeouts.

In between, the senior 6-foot, 1 inch, right-hander retired the first seven batters before he walked Noah Arnold on five pitches in the third inning. He then retired the next seven before an error on a dropped pop fly on the first pitch allowed Dawson Griffith to reach base with one out in the fifth. He then retired another seven in a row before he walked Braden Burtis on four pitches with one out in the seventh.

“Their pitcher was good, but I don’t know if anybody is that good,” Thompson said. “We intentionally play a difficult early season schedule in order to see good pitching. You hope the kids respond to it. The early season record or the record at any time of the season isn’t important. What’s important is you continue to improve. We’re fine.”

The Bulldogs burst out of their offensive woes in a big way the next day banging out 12 hits to beat Hardin County (5-3), 15-0, led by Cam Ande with three RBIs and two RBIs each from Ethan Golish, Noah Arnold, and pinch-hitter Xavier Robinson with a two-run double in the fourth.

Harrisburg first baseman Braden Burtis (33) tosses the ball to Cam Ande (7) to catch a Pleasant Plains baserunner in a run-down in the top of the third inning. Jeff Jones photo

Burtis (2-1) tossed a four-inning complete game shutout giving up just three base runners on one hit, one walk and one hit batsman.

After a scoreless first inning, the Bulldogs exploded for eight runs in the second, one in the third and another six in the fourth. In addition to Robinson’s double the big hits were a two-out three-run single by Ande and a two-run double by Golish in the second and a pinch-hit RBI double by Brady Davis in the fourth.

Friday back at The Jay with Pleasant Plains in town, the Bulldogs’ offense was limited to just five base runners on three hits and Golish being hit twice, but they made the most of their base runners with the Bulldogs taking a 2-0 lead in the second on Golish being hit with two outs and Reed Rider smacking a two-run home run three pitches later and upping its lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Golish was hit again leading off and one out later Arnold sending him home with a single.

Arnold made his third start and was in total command throwing his first shutout of the season holding the Cardinals to seven base runners pitching around two hits batmen in the first and leadoff singles in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings stranding five having picked off one and the other wiped out by a double play.

“We didn’t exactly tattoo the ball that day,” Thompson said. “Arnold has been very steady for us. He’s really good. We know what we’re going to get every time he goes out. He has a much above average breaking ball and high school kids typically do not hit the breaking ball.”

After two games without an error, the old bugaboo of having committed 15 errors in the other six games returned Saturday at Du Quoin with the Bulldogs committing four errors that led to three unearned runs in an 8-5 loss. The Indians jumped out to a 5-0 lead with four runs in the second helped in part on a two-out walk that loaded the bases followed by a triple and one run in the third.

“Du Quoin hit the ball very, very well, but again we helped them out with some errors and a couple mental errors,” Thompson said. “They are going to score four or five every game they play, so you can’t give a team that hits that well extra outs.”

The Bulldogs were handcuffed over the first three innings with only a two-out double by Jack Ford in the first being the only base runner. Harrisburg finally broke the shutout bid in the fourth on a two-out RBI double by Brendan Bergan following back-to-back walks to Rider and Arnold to cut the lead to 5-1.

The whole Bulldog team greeted Reed Rider (20) at home plate after he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning. Jeff Jones photo

The Indians rebuilt their lead to 8-1 with a run in the fourth and two in the fifth before the Bulldogs rallied for four runs in the sixth on three doubles, a walk and a balk. The first two runs scored on a double by Burtis with one out after Bergan singled and Dawn Griffith doubled. Then Owen Rann was walked to put runners at the corners before Ande cleared the bases on a double.

“We certainly got it together in sixth — we hit the ball the way I know we can — we hit a lot of balls hard,” Thompson said.

The inning ended with runners at second and third on a come-backer to the pitcher. Harrisburg went down 1-2-3 in the seventh.

“Right now we’re just not very consistent at the plate,” Thompson said. “All of us are frustrated at this point, but I see some positives signs. We have to keep plugging along.”

With this swing Reed Rider (20) sends the ball over the left field fence for a two-run homer in the botttom of the first inning. Jeff Jones photo