• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Bat Jackets beat Bardstown, Fairfield (Ohio)

The Woodford County High School baseball team is off to a roaring start this season. To date, the Bat Jackets are 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the region, which included two late-inning one-run wins, as well as beating Bardstown and Fairfield, a top-10 team in Ohio, at home on Saturday, March 25. “So far, the guys are playing with a lot of energy,” said Woodford’s second-year head coach Paul Patterson. “They’ve got a lot of expectations for this year. … They are playing for each other right now, which is really fun to watch. We’re going to keep getting better. Our lineup is going to get deeper once we get all of our guys back. (We’ll) be able to give a few more guys some rest and put a few more sticks in the lineup pretty soon. So, I’m just tickled to death with them. I love coaching this team.” Woodford opened the season at Bryan Station on March 16 and scored a 10-1 win. They followed that with a 7-1 win at home over Lexington Christian on March 18. Then on March 20, they suffered their only loss of the season so far at East Jessamine, 5-1. The team got back on the winning trail again at home on March 21 with a 3-0 win over Shelby County. Then, in their most exciting win of the season so far, the Bat Jackets defeated Holy Cross (Louisville), 10-9 in eight innings at home on March 22. “I think we were down 9-3 in the sixth inning, and (the team) just decided they did not want to lose,” said Patterson. “They were willing to do whatever it took, whether it was get hit by a pitch, draw a walk, whatever they needed to do to help their team to win.” They followed that with the two wins at home on Saturday, a 7-1 win over Bardstown and a 5-4 win over Fairfield (Ohio). In the game against Fairfield, Hunter Hilbert, got the start and the win. He pitched 5.3 innings, and struck out two batters, while giving up seven hits and one walk. Alec Neff pitched one inning and had one strikeout, while Joseph Sutherland pitched one-third of an inning and struck out two batters. In the game against Bardstown, Jack Ockerman got the start, and the Tigers got a few early hits in the top of the first inning, but Ockerman and the Woodford defense shut them down to end the inning. Then in the bottom of the first, Woodford was unable to generate any offense and the game remained scoreless. Woodford took care of business in the top of the second inning. With Ockerman still pitching strong, and a great play by the defense getting a runner out trying to steal second, the Bat Jackets had a little momentum going their way. Woodford started out the bottom of the second with an out, but then the Jackets’ bats came alive. It began with Benjamin Denton being walked, which was followed by senior Parker Thomas hitting a hard ball to third base, which was dropped. That left Denton on second and Parker at first. The next batter, freshman Skyelar Johnson, was walked to load the bases. The Bat Jackets took advantage of the loaded bases with the next few plays. Freshman Noah Pictor hit a single, which scored Denton to give Woodford a 1-0 lead and kept the bases loaded. Next up was Ockerman, who was hit with a pitch. That scored Parker to make it a 2-0 ball game and kept the bases loaded once more. Junior Caleb McNeeley came to the plate and belted a single, which scored Johnson to give Woodford a 3-0 lead, and, more importantly, left the bases loaded again. Sophomore Charlie Corum was the next batter, and he hit a single to center field, which scored Pictor for the 4-0 Woodford lead, and loaded the bases again. The next batter was junior Hunter Hilbert, who got his bat on the ball for a single. That scored Ockerman for the 5-0 lead and, once again, left the bases loaded. Following an out, Denton came up once again and hit a hard grounder to the shortstop, who dropped the ball. As a result, McNeeley scored to give Woodford a 6-0 lead, and kept the bases loaded. Next up was Thomas, who hit a ball deep to left field, which allowed Corum to score, kept the bases loaded and gave the Bat Jackets a 7-0 lead, which is how the inning ended a few batters later. The score remained the same until the top of the fifth inning, when Bardstown finally got on the scoreboard with a run. Following Woodford’s at-bat, the Bat Jackets led 7-1. Neither team scored in the sixth inning, and in the seventh, Patterson put in his closer, Joseph Sutherland who got the Tigers out in order to give Woodford the 7-1 win. Ockerman got the win. He pitched six innings and had 12 strike outs, while giving up a walk, three hits and a run. “You know, I always sleep really good right before Jack Ockerman is going to be taking the mound,” said Patterson with a smile. Sutherland pitched one inning and struck out one batter. Overall, Woodford’s defense, which Patterson is emphasizing this year, has been solid. Not only in the Bardstown game, but all season long. “We’ve still missed a ball or two,” said Patterson. “But, they’ve committed to the fundamentals that we’re teaching and trying to do it the right way every time. So, they’re not backing up errors with another error. There moving on to the next play (and) not letting anything compound. We’re still giving up a runner or two per inning, but nothing accumulating for the other team. So, that’s the way we’re trying to play and they’re doing a good job of it.” With the Bat Jackets off to such a good start, Patterson is encouraging more people to come out and watch his team. “This is a good baseball team and they are fun to watch, they are fun to coach, and they are have fun playing,” said Patterson. “If they could play in front of a big hometown crowd, I can see them winning 25 or more baseball games this year.” Next up, Woodford is heading to Florida during the spring break and will be playing a tournament in Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., from April 3 to April 6. On April 3, the Bat Jackets open with a game against Scott County at 1 p.m. and another against Saegertown, Pa., at 4 p.m. Then on April 4, they play Henry Clay at 10 a.m. They close their road trip with two games on April 6. The first is against Greenup County at 1 p.m. and the second, at 7 p.m., will be against a team to be determined.

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