By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BARBOURVILLE—North Laurel’s first three batters showed why coach Darren McWhorter was concerned about how his offense would perform. All three batters popped up and only one made it out of the infield in Thursday’s game with Barbourville.
“You have to adjust to a guy that’s throwing slower and a little more off speed. You can’t try to hit that guy the way you hit a guy throwing mostly fastballs,” McWhorter said.
Before his team batted in the second inning, McWhorter had a little pow wow to remind them the fundamentals of hitting against a soft thrower. The keys are to be patient and hit strikes.
“You’re going to be able to put your bat on just about anything he throws up there, but if it’s not strike you’re going to pop it up or not hit it well. I always tell them to think hit up the middle,” McWhorter said.
The first two batters reached base in the top of the second inning. Then Austin Rudder connected for a three-run homer, his first of the year. From there, the Jaguars rolled. 12-0.
“They did a good job adjusting to him. I’ve seen pitchers like that before give the top of the line up trouble,” McWhorter said.
It wouldn’t be the case Thursday as Marcus Carson stroked a pair of hits. Zach Hurley would also connect on a home run as the Jaguars rolled to their third straight win. It was a relief to the Jaguars for a game not to go down to the final at bat. North Laurel’s two previous losses were by one-run to Clay County and South Oldham on late rallies.
“It seems like we’ve had tight, tough games every game we’ve played of late. It’s good to get one of these every now and then. Everybody got to play,” McWhorter said.
Austin Thompson pitched plete game. Thompson allowed just one hit and struck out nine.
McWhorter said it’s still hard to tell if the recent wins have boosted his team’s confidence.
“We’re getting such breaks in between games right now the way this weather is doing it’s hard to tell. We’re pretty much booked solid the rest of the season playing five games a week, weather permitting,” McWhorter said.
North Laurel will play at McCreary Central Monday. They have also added a home game Tuesday against Hazard.
“As long as our pitchers keep throwing strikes and our defense is playing good, maybe we can get hot and put everything together at the right time,” McWhorter said. “We still need to work on many things. The main thing is really locking in when we get runners in scoring position. We can get them on, but getting them in has been our Achilles heel at times. “