By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY – Veteran New Albany head coach Chris McIntyre is searching for one thing from his team with the start of the Class 4A Bedford North Lawrence Sectional less than a week away.
That item is consistency.
McIntyre expressed the need for that after the Bulldogs swept a doubleheader against Hoosier Hills Conference rival Jennings County last Saturday at Mt. Tabor Field. New Albany defeated the visiting Panthers in a slugfest of a first game 12-8. In Game 2, the Bulldogs improved to 12-8 with a 3-2 victory.
“We are very inconsistent. We look like a young team,” McIntyre said. “It changes from inning to inning and at-bat to at-bat. We look pretty solid for a while, then we make two or three bonehead mental mistakes. We’re still working to clean it up.”
Against Jennings County, New Albany had its inconsistent moments. For instance, the Bulldog defense struggled as it committed two errors. But New Albany played better in the field in the nightcap as it made just one miscue.
McIntyre felt the Dogs and the Panthers were battling fatigue after each competed in three games in the HHC Tournament last week. That included each squad playing last Friday.
“Both teams were tired,” McIntyre said. “Both played so many games this week. Both teams looked a little bit lethargic. But you play some baseball games when you don’t play 100 percent.”
Last Friday, McIntyre said mental errors prevented the Bulldogs from winning the third-place game of the HHC Tournament at Columbus East. Indiana University football signee Harry Crider delivered a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Olympians a 4-0 victory over New Albany.
“(Last Friday) we had a winnable game,” McIntyre said. “But once again, we had two or three mental mistakes. It wasn’t anything the other team did. We did it to ourselves and we could’ve won that ballgame.”
New Albany concocted a solid performance Tuesday night at Mt. Tabor with a convincing 10-1 victory over Class 3A No. 10 and Mid-Southern Conference champion Silver Creek.
“If we have a game where we put it altogether, we can compete with just about anybody,” said McIntyre, whose team will face archrival Jeffersonville in the BNL Sectional opener next Wednesday.
The Bulldog who has shown consistency throughout the season is first baseman and pitcher Ryan Robison with his bat.
Robison went 6-for-9 in the doubleheader with the Panthers (8-13). In Game 1, he was 3-for-5 with two home runs, a double and five RBIs. He followed that with a 3-for-4 game in the nightcap. Robison has six home runs in 2017.
“He’s had a good season,” McIntyre said. “He’s been solid most games. He’s had a few games here and there where he’s been off of it a little bit. But he’s been our most consistent hitter all year. You just kind of expect a good at-bat from him.”
GAME 1: NEW ALBANY 12, JENNNINGS COUNTY 8
The Bulldogs took a 5-0 lead after the first inning, collecting six hits that included a two-run homer by Robison. But the Panthers answered with two runs apiece in the second and third to pull within 5-4.
After New Albany plated a run in the bottom of the third to go up 6-4, the Panthers scored twice in the top of the fourth to deadlock the game at six. But Robison gave the Dogs the lead for good at 7-6 in the bottom half with a one-out solo shot to right field. New Albany added four runs in the fifth to take a five-run advantage.
Bulldog junior Chase Rudy went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored. Teammate Logan Charbonneau was 3-for 4, scoring a pair of runs and driving in one. New Albany catcher Christian Sifers went 2-for-3 with a run scored, and the Bulldogs’ Cody Medley ended up 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Teammate Andrew Ricketts came home twice and drove in two runs.
Owen Tanksley was the winning pitcher to improve his record to 2-1. In four innings, the left-hander yielded six runs (three earned) on eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Medley got his first save of the 2017 campaign. He gave up two runs (both earned) on four hits in three innings. Medley struck out two and walked none.
“I thought in the first game that we swung the bats pretty well. We had a lot of two-out hits,” McIntyre said. “We didn’t play real well defensively. Pitching-wise, Owen didn’t really have much of a breaking ball. But Owen competes. I will give him a ton of credit. He is a competitor out there. I brought Cody in and that’s the best we’ve ever gotten out of him, so I was really pleased with that.”
Jennings County’s Cody Wilson went 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Teammate Bret Sawyer was 2-for-4 and the Panthers’ Josh Petit had two RBIs.
GAME 2: NEW ALBANY 3, JENNINGS COUNTY 2
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the first when Dylan Clark drilled a two-run double into left with two out. The Panthers answered with a two-out, two-run homer by Matt Kirchner to left to knot the game at two.
New Albany scored the eventual winning run in the bottom of the fourth. Jacob Mullins led off the frame with a double to left, followed by advancing to third on a balk. That was followed by designated hitter Robert Job driving in Mullins on a groundout to first.
Rudy made the biggest defensive play of the contest in the top of the fifth. With Jennings County’s Cameron Hadley on second base and two out, Sawyer hit a single to center. Rudy, the Bulldog center fielder, fielded the ball and threw a dart to Sifers at home. Sifers completed the assist by tagging out Hadley at home to prevent the tying run.
“Chase has got a good arm in the outfield,” McIntyre said. “He didn’t play the best game defensively today. He fell asleep out there a couple of times, but he does have a heck of an arm in the outfield. That’s not the first guy he’s thrown out at the plate. He keeps the ball low, so it can be cut off if it gets off-line.”
Clark was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and Mullins ended up 2-for-3. Clark was the winning pitcher in relief, tossing two scoreless innings on four hits. He struck out two and walked one.
Robison earned his first save of the season. In two innings, he held the Panthers scoreless on one hit and no walks. Robison struck out one.
“As far as the second game goes, it was just a grinder,” McIntyre said. “Both teams were spent. We had a lot of opportunities to break this open and we just didn’t get that hit. Luckily, we played good solid defense and our pitching did a nice job.”
Kirchner wound up 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Hadley was 2-for-3.
STAN SAJKO INVITATIONAL
The annual Stan Sajko Invitational will take place Friday and Saturday at Mt. Tabor Field.
This year’s tournament will have a round-robin format as only three teams are participating in the host Bulldogs, Corydon Central and North Harrison.
New Albany will face Corydon at 6 p.m. Friday in the invitational opener. Corydon will play the Harrison County rival Cougars at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Bulldogs playing North Harrison at about 1 p.m. Saturday.
Longtime Sajko Invitational participant and defending Class 2A state champion Providence has dropped out of the tournament. McIntyre said last Saturday that New Albany will try to find a potential fourth team for next year’s tournament.
The invitational is named after the legendary Bulldog head baseball coach and athletic director who created the tournament in 1962. Sajko, who passed away in 2008, was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
NEW ALBANY 12, JENNINGS COUNTY 8
Jennings Co. 022 201 1- 8 12 2
New Albany 501 141 x-12 16 2
W – Owen Tanksley (2-1). L – Jamie Vanvolkenburgh. S – Cody Medley (1). 2B – Cody Wilson (JC), Jacob Mullins (NA), Ryan Robison (NA), Chase Rudy 2 (NA). 3B – Duncan Rowda (JC). HR – Robison 2 (NA).
NEW ALBANY 3, JENNINGS COUNTY 2
Jennings Co. 020 000 0-2 9 2
New Albany 200 100 x-3 8 1
W – Dylan Clark (1-0). L – Jonathan Waggoner. S – Robison (1). 2B – Shawn Houser (JC), Rudy (NA), Clark (NA), Mullins (NA). HR – Matt Kirchner (JC).
Records – New Albany 12-8, Jennings County 8-13.