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TAYLORSVILLE – About all Anderson County could do was tip their hats to Spencer County and move on last Friday.
The Bears took advantage of seven Anderson walks, another hit batter and two Anderson errors to post an 11-1 five-inning win in a game rescheduled from a day earlier because of rain.
Spencer collected only seven hits – just one of those for extra bases, but waited out Anderson starter Brandon Eliadis for seven walks to notch its first win over the Bearcats since 2009.
“That's just baseball for you,” Anderson coach L.W. Barnes said of the whipping.
The Bears struck for three runs in the first inning and five more in the second, when they sent 11 batters to the plate and left the bases loaded.
By that time, about the only question that remained was if Spencer would be able to claim a “mercy-rule” win. The Bears did when shortstop Austin Heilman turned on reliever Zack Mason's offering in the bottom of the fifth for a walk-off three-run homer.
Eliadis had been Anderson's most consistent starter, coming in with a 2-1 record. The loss had been to Dunbar when the Bearcats were no-hit. Friday, however, the junior left-hander struggled with what appeared to be an ever-shrinking strike zone.
The call on two pitches to Spencer leadoff hitter Chase Barnes, who walked, drew the ire of Anderson pitching coach Chris Copenhaver.
Eliadis eventually walked six in the first two innings – two coming with the bases loaded.
The junior settled down to pitch well in the third and fourth innings but by that time, the damage had been done.
“I thought (Eliadis) threw some good pitches,” Barnes said. “I think both teams got squeezed a little at the plate Regardless, their pitcher came out and did what he had to do.”
After Chase Barnes and Nathan Connard walked, Heilman reached on a fielder's choice when Eliadis fielded a slow tapper but no one was covering first, the only play the pitcher had. On the very next pitch, Spencer pitcher and cleanup hitter Lance Shelton ripped a two-run single to left field. Heilman would later score on a ground out.
The Bears also took advantage of a crucial second-inning error when Anderson botched a force play at second that could have been the second out of an easy inning. Instead, Spencer went for the jugular with a five-spot powered by back-to-back run-scoring singles from Heilman and Shelton.
Anderson showed some life in the third when first baseman Max Crabtree, hitting eighth, turned a Shelton pitch into a towering home run over the right field fence. The next two batters, Connor Cotton and Shae Sparrow, both reached on walks, but the Bearcats squandered the opportunity.
“Max hit the ball well,” Barnes said. “It was one of the few bright spots for us tonight.”
Shelton kept Anderson batters off balance most of the evening, giving up just three hits, two of the infield variety. The senior right-hander struck out eight and walked four.
“Tonight we didn't do a very good job at the plate. We chased a lot of bad pitches,” Barnes said.
Anderson, which has won the last two 30th District titles, will need to regroup. It is possible. according to the coach. Just three years ago, Barnes coached a Bearcat team that was struggling in April but finally went down in 11 innings in the regional championship game. “The 2010 team got mercy-ruled by Shelby County in the first district seeding game,” Barnes said, “but they came back and turned out to be a pretty good team.”
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