Pitching continues to be key for the Bulldogs

After having its 10-game winning streak snapped in the second game of a doubleheader in Kentucky the week before, the Harrisburg baseball team started a new winning streak behind excellent starting pitching to win all of its six games last week, including a doubleheader at The Jay on Saturday.

With the six wins the Bulldogs improved to 20-5 overall and extended their streak of winning at least 20 games a season to six as well as clinching their fifth straight SIRR Ohio Division title with a 6-0 record because Harrisburg holds a two and a half-game lead over second place Massac County (4-3 Ohio, 11-9) and a three-game lead over Carterville (3-3 Ohio, 9-8) with two games left to play this week.

“We had a great week,” said Harrisburg coach Jay Thompson. “We got behind against Carterville, Murphysboro and Vandalia — three really good teams — and we were able to come back to take the lead, so that was a very positive sign. Twenty wins is always a nice thing to do. The boys have done well.”

Bulldog Ethan Golish (15) sends this ball over the left field fence for a home run in the third inning. Golish repeated the feat, hitting another homer in the sixth inning, contributing to the Bulldog 11-1 win.

This week Harrisburg winds up conference play with home games against Herrin (1-16-1, 0-6 Ohio) Monday and Murphysboro (10-12, 2-3 Ohio) Tuesday. The Bulldogs finish the week back at home at The Jay against Carbondale (7-9) from the South Seven Conference Friday.

“We just hope to continue to play well this week,” Thompson said. “We’ve already clinched the conference, so that will take a little pressure off the first two games.”

Last week Coach Thompson’s starting rotation was in postseason form throwing four complete games out of the six along with getting at least five innings out of his starter in the other two.

“Our pitching has really come around,” Thompson said. “We’ve got six kids who pitch for us a lot and they were all good last week. Noah Arnold, Ethan Golish, Braden Burtis and Owen Rann are kind of our four starters. Then Cam Ande and Ian Crabb have both been phenomenal as starters or relievers. They give us a lot of flexibility, so we’ve been able to keep our guys on a pretty consistent rotation.”

Ande (1-0) stepped out of the bullpen where he led the team with eight previous appearances giving up just two earned runs in 14.2 innings pitched, and made his first start of the season. The right-hander went the distance pitching six innings giving up just one unearned run on two hits and a walk with a season-high seven strikeouts in an 11-1 win over Massac County at The Jay.

Harrisburg's Reed Rider throws up a rooster tail while scooting across home plate, contributing anohter run for the Dogs in their defeat of Massac County.

“Ande is that guy that can come in and get the job done,” Thompson said. “We’ve only had to start him once, but he’s been lights out coming out of the bullpen.”

The middle of the batting order led the 12-attack with the No. 3 hitter Golish going 3-for-3, including two home runs and a double, with three RBIs and three runs scored. No. 5 hitter Reed Rider went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a two runs scored and the cleanup batter Dawson Griffith going 2-for-4 with an RBI and one run scored.

Rann was a fifth-inning pinch-hitter and defensive replacement in left field and the junior immediately made his presence felt with an RBI single to up the lead to 8-1. In the sixth inning, Rann came up with the bases loaded and one out and was hit by a pitch to up the lead to 11-1 to trigger the 10-run rule to end the game.

The Carterville Lions came to The Jay last Tuesday and it was a titanic battle with Bulldogs coming away with a come-from-behind 3-2 win.

Golish (4-1) made his fifth start and the senior went the distance for his second complete game and his first for a full seven innings. The right-hander struck out a team-high 11 batters giving up two runs on four hits and a walk.

Harrisburg first baseman Braden Burtis (33) prepares to tag the would-be base stealer for Carterville.

After pitching around a two-out single in the first, a one-out walk in the second and setting down the side in order in the third, the Lions took the lead on a one-out two-run home run in the fourth.

The Bulldogs came right back with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. The game-winning rally got started when Jack Ford was hit on the second pitch and Golish sent him to third with a ground ball double up the middle. On the first pitch, Griffith cut the lead in half sending Ford home on a ground ball up the middle.

One out later Brendan Bergan tied the score with a sacrifice fly to center. Arnold was then hit and Burtis was walked to load the bases with two outs. On the first pitch, Griffith scored the winning run on a passed ball before the batter stuck out

Carmi-White County (14-4) invaded The Jay last Wednesday and the Bulldogs short-gamed the other Bulldogs, 10-0. Rann made his fourth start of the season and tossed his second five-inning complete game shutting out Carmi on two hits and two walks while finishing with eight strikeouts.

Harrisburg's Ian Crabb (2) maneuvers to scoop up a ground ball near second base.

“Rann has really started to come on,” Thompson said. “He’s been a big, big asset.”

Rider went 3-for-3 with an RBI and Griffith finished 3-for-4, including a home run, with three RBIs. Arnold and Ande finished with two hits and one RBI each and Golish hit another home run for his third of the week and fifth for the season.

“The only negative of the week came on Friday when Griffith tweaked his leg running to first base and he’ll probably be out this week,” Thompson said.

Friday afternoon the hometown Bulldogs traveled to Murphysboro for a conference game and beat the Red Devils, 7-2, behind the pitching of ace Arnold and Crabb. Arnold improved to 6-1 pitching into the seventh inning holding Murphysboro to two unearned runs on four hits, two walks. The right-hander struck out eight batters for the fifth straight start.

Crabb came in with one out and a runner at first. The freshman right-hander got his first batter on a pop fly to short and closed out with a swinging strikeout on his second.

Rider and Arnold had two hits with Burtis and Golish driving in two runs each. While Burtis didn’t have a hit in three at-bats, the senior drove in a run in the second on a fielder’s choice ground ball to short and in the seventh on a one-out bases loaded walk.

Saturday Vandalia came to The Jay for a daytime doubleheader. Burtis (5-2) made his sixth start in the first game going the distance for the second time, but the first for seven innings holding the Vandals to one run on three hits and no walks in a 7-1 win. The right-hander finished with a season-high seven strikeouts.

At the plate, Burtis was perfect reaching base three times with two hits and a walk going 2-for-2, including his second home run, with three RBIs. Golish went 3-for-4, including a double, with two RBIs.

The second game was a seesaw battle with the Bulldogs coming out on top 10-8, Crabb made his first start after five appearances out of the bullpen and gave up six runs with only three earned on six hits and two walks in five innings of work.

“What Crabb has been able to do for us as a freshman is really impressive,” Thompson said.

Ande (2-0) pitched the final two innings picking up the win giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk.

Vandalia scored three in the first, but Harrisburg rallied for four in the second. The Vandals regained the lead with a run in the third and two in the fifth, but again the Bulldogs rallied to tie the score 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth.

The Bulldogs put the game away with four runs in the sixth and after Vandalia scored two runs in the top of the seventh, Ande was able to strand the game-tying runners at first and third with a line drive to Crabb, who had taken over for Ande in the field.

The Bulldogs were held to just four hits, but took advantage of 12 walks by three Vandals pitchers. Ford came off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out and the Bulldogs behind 6-5. The senior catcher tied the game on a fielder’s choice ground out to second.

In the sixth, Ford drove in the eventual winning runs with two outs on a bases loaded line drive single to left.

Harrisburg's Xander Robinson (21) makes a homer-robbing catch at the fence.