By KEVIN HARRIS
BEDFORD – If there was one game that described New Albany’s 2017 season in a nutshell, it was its 6-5 loss to Floyd County rival Floyd Central in the Class 4A Bedford North Lawrence Sectional semifinals May 27 at Stars Field.
The Bulldogs (17-10) held a four-run lead twice in the first 5 ½ innings. They got a solid first five innings from junior starter Ryan Robison and New Albany’s defense was sound during that stretch despite a third-inning error.
Plus the Bulldog offense showed its continued improvement with four runs in the top of the second and an additional score in the sixth. That stretch showed when the Dogs play like that, they can compete with just about any opponent.
But in the bottom of the sixth, the inconsistency New Albany battled throughout the season re-emerged and it could not hold on to defeat the Highlanders (18-8). The Bulldogs committed several mental and physical errors in the sixth and seventh that ended their quest to repeat as sectional champions.
“Baseball is a great game,” New Albany head coach Chris McIntyre told The Courier-Journal in Louisville. “But sometimes it can be the most cruel thing in the world, and today is one of those days …. (It’s) a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.”
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the top of the second to take a 4-0 advantage. With the bases loaded and two out, New Albany freshman Andrew Ricketts plated the first run with an RBI single to center field to knock in Steven Thom.
That was followed by a three-run double by New Albany senior Jacob Mullins. That prompted Floyd Central head coach Casey LaDuke to pull Highlander starter Hunter Bradshaw and replace him with junior reliever Andrew Smith.
Floyd Central cut its deficit to 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth. After the Highlanders loaded the bases with three consecutive singles off Robison with none out, Floyd junior Alex Lozado scored on a fielder’s choice.
During the first five innings, Robison only had trouble in the fourth. The left-hander allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts in the first five frames.
The Bulldogs gave Robison another four-run cushion in the top of the sixth. Following a one-out single by senior Logan Charbonneau, freshman Cody Medley drove him in with a double to the left-center gap to put New Albany up 5-1.
But the Bulldogs’ fortunes took a turn for the worst in the bottom of the sixth.
The Highlanders got their first two runners on versus Robison when senior Max Baumann collected a single to shallow center and Jon Cato drew a walk. Baumann and courtesy runner Jared Agnew, who came in for Cato, each moved up a base when Robison committed his second balk of the contest.
Then Floyd’s Trevor Clark provided a huge momentum-swinging hit. The senior center fielder smacked an opposite-field triple to right to knock in two runs to pull the Highlanders within 5-3.
“He’s a football player and he’s not going to give up. He’s another average player, but he’s a Bulldog player,” LaDuke said.
After Clark’s triple, McIntyre relieved Robison with Charbonneau. With one out, Clark scored when teammate Brayden Edwards smacked a sacrifice fly to right to get Floyd within 5-4. Charbonneau struck out Highlander third baseman Kellen Northam to end the frame.
In the bottom of the seventh, Highlander senior Dalton Drexler collected a one-out single. Floyd got two runners on base in the next at-bat. Lozado hit a grounder near first base. But Robison, who was the first baseman at the time, committed a fielding error by letting the ball roll underneath his glove.
After Charbonneau fanned Baumann for the second out, the Bulldog right-hander loaded the bases when he hit Cato on a 3-2 pitch.
The Highlanders then tied the game at five when Charbonneau hit a second batter in a row. Charbonneau just clipped Clark’s arm with a pitch, plating Drexler from third.
That set up Floyd Central’s Braxton Cerqueira to complete the comeback victory. The junior first baseman delivered a game-winning RBI single to knock in Agnew.
“People say high school baseball doesn’t matter anymore. They say it’s all about travel ball,” LaDuke said. “Two county schools are going neck-and-neck. We’re battling. One is fighting their butts off, trying to get back into it and we did.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. When we got down 4-0, we just told the kids, ‘We’ve just got to stay with it, stay with it and peck away. If we can get close, can we put a little pressure on them maybe by throwing strikes?’ That’s what we did.”
Medley ended up 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Charbonneau got the loss as he finished his senior season with a 5-2 record. In 1 2/3 innings, he yielded two runs (both unearned) on two hits and no walks with two strikeouts.
In his five-plus innings, Robison allowed four runs (all earned) on six hits, walking three and fanning two.
Drexler was 2-for-3 with a run scored, and Baumann went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Lozado scored twice.
Edwards earned the victory in relief, evening his record at 2-2. He pitched the final four innings, surrendering one run (earned) on two hits. The senior struck out four and walked one.
“Brayden has been doing that all year. We know he can go four or five innings like that,” LaDuke said. “Nothing comes easy for us. We’ve been fighting all year.”
The Bulldogs graduated four seniors in Charbonneau, Mullins, Jacob Prince and Robert Job. The Highlanders extended their series winning streak with New Albany to 10 games.
CLASS 4A BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE SECTIONAL
FLOYD CENTRAL 6, NEW ALBANY 5
New Albany 040 001 0-5 5 1
Floyd Central 000 103 2-6 8 0
W – Brayden Edwards (2-2). L – Logan Charbonneau (5-2). 2B – Jacob Mullins (NA), Cody Medley (NA). 3B – Trevor Clark (FC).
Records – New Albany 17-10, Floyd Central 18-8.