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SHELBYVILLE – It is one of the very first skills a baseball player learns when playing in the pee wee or coach-pitch leagues.
At least learning the basic art of catching the ball should be high on the to-do list of all future stars before they get to high school. Unfortunately for Anderson County last Tuesday, those lessons were long gone.
The Bearcats committed a plethora of errors – The Anderson News charged the Bearcats with eight -- directly responsible for four unearned runs as they dropped a 7-4 decision in a key 30th District game at Shelby County.
The miscues came in the form of careless throws to simply not making routine plays on the ball.
“Our first inning we simply didn't catch a Sunday hop, a direct throw from the short stop, and a direct throw on a pick-off at first. I mean literally catch a ball. I'm not talking about diving or jumping or ground balls, just catching,” Anderson coach L.W. Barnes said of the Bearcats botching some routine plays.
In reality, there was nothing routine last week. The game had originally been slated to be played on Anderson's field but off-season renovations were still not completed in time. It created a bizarre situation where Anderson was the home team, playing Shelby on the Rockets' home field.
It really made little difference.
After reaching Anderson starter Josh Brown for two quick runs, the Rockets pushed another home when Kevin Veeley scored from third on a two-out error that would have ended the inning.
Three frames later, Shelby's Kipp Moore and Riley Everson both scored when Anderson could not complete what looked like a tailor-made double play that would have ended the inning.
Veeley grounded to shortstop Mason Baker, who flipped to second baseman Shae Sparrow to retire Kam Bruner. But Bruner successfully got Sparrow to throw wide to first, allowing the two runners to score.
The runs made it 6-4 and gave Shelby all the cushion it needed.
“The failed double play was the turning point of the game,” Barnes said. “We just fought back to tie it and our pitcher is battling. He gets the routine groundball we wanted and we don't finish off the double play. Instead, allow two runs. We get out of that jam deadlocked at 4 and it's a different game.”
The upstart Bearcats, who were playing with much more fire than they had in their previous outing, an 11-1 loss to district rival Spencer County, but it was not enough to overcome their own miscues.
After Shelby had put three runs up in the first, Anderson got one back when Granville Hayes reached on a fielder’s choice, then went all the way to third after Veeley could not locate a passed ball. Hayes then came home on a wild pitch from Dillon Boone.
Then in the second, after Josh Brown and Brice Stockton singled, Wesley Jorette, courtesy running for Brown, came home all the way from second base when Boone uncorked another wild one.
“Wesley Jorette made a great baseball play,” Barnes said. “I had nothing to do with that. He made a great instinctive read and never quit running hard. He's the fastest guy on the team, and he showed how ruthless he can be when he's on the bases. I felt that was the real spark that woke our guys up.”
An inning later, Anderson’s Tanner Roberts reached when third baseman Tyler Eades could not handle his bunt. Roberts stole second, advanced to third on Granville Hayes’ groundout, then scored when Boone unleashed yet another wild pitch.
Even though Anderson had knotted the count at 4-4, the Bearcats had done it with only three hits, a sign of some of their woes to come over the final four innings. Anderson finished with only five hits.
Shelby had taken the quick lead when leadoff hitter Kipp Moore, who would reach base in all five plate appearances, doubled on a full count pitch from Anderson starter Josh Brown. One out later, Kam Bruner singled on a 1-2 pitch, then scored when Veeley doubled on an 0-2 count.
“Got to give credit to Shelby's top of order. They are quality hitters,” Barnes said. “Josh threw pretty well, but was still a little inconsistent hitting his spots. One hit was on a ball at the hitter's eyes. Another was on a decent curve--maybe hung it a little.
“Still, make a routine play, and we're down only two after top half instead of three.”
Boone settled down, giving up only singles to Roberts in the fifth and Shae Sparrow to lead off the seventh.
Shelby, which was without head coach Bart Roettger, who was serving part of a 3-game suspension, took no chances. Acting coach Mike Moore brought in right-hander Jakub Noonan, who struck out two of the three batters he faced to earn the save.
“I told them that I felt they competed better, but we just basically killed ourselves with our defense,” Barnes said. Giving up four unearned runs gets you beat most of the time. I told them we have 20-plus games remaining, and we have to continue to work through this and play for each other.”
Anderson now finds itself in the unenviable situation of having to beat seventh-ranked and undefeated Collins plus get some other help to avoid the No. 4 seed in the 30th district Tournament, which the Bearcats have won the last two years.
“It pretty much relegates us to the four-seed,” Barnes said. “I believe that's a first here for me.”
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