NORTH VERNON — One big hit proved to be the difference in Thursday’s baseball showdown between Columbus North and Jennings County.
With both teams riding strong pitching and defensive performances, it was a fourth-inning homer by Collin Lollar that pushed the visiting Bull Dogs in front and helped them hold on to a 2-1 victory. The win raised North’s overall record to 11-1, while the host Panthers absorbed just their second loss in six outings.
Lollar’s blast, which was his second in as many games, also plated Cody Burton, who was intentionally walked after Evan Finke led off the frame with a line drive up the center of the field. Finke, who went 3 for 3, stole second base but was picked off by Jennings catcher Conner Byram after Burton was sent to first.
Moments later, Lollar connected on a Tyler Vogel offering that easily cleared the left-center field fence.
The Panthers finally got in the scorebook in the bottom of the sixth after Sam Miller reached on an error, advanced the bases on consecutive groundouts and then scampered home on a passed ball.
The unearned run was a nugget of hope for Jennings, who was stifled at the plate by North pitcher Jon Cox. The Bull Dog senior hurler surrendered just four hits, and none past the third inning to record his fourth win in four starts. Unphased by the late score, Cox set down the Panthers in order in the bottom of the seventh to close out the complete game with three strikeouts and zero walks.
“It was good to see Jon come through in a close-game situation,” North coach Ben McDaniel said. “We’ve given him lots of run support in his previous starts, so this was a different scenario for him.”
Vogel was just as impressive through the first three innings for Jennings, allowing just three hits with one walk and one strikeout. The 6-foot-7 sophomore completed five innings to absorb the tough-luck loss, while Steven Miller pitched one-hit ball in relief.
“Pitching and defense has been our M.O. this season, and it was again today,” Panthers coach Gabe Lowman said. “Unfortunately, our offense has not been getting the job done.”
Both coaches complimented the opposing hurlers but also noted their own team’s miscues, including a trio of pickoff plays the Bull Dogs got caught in.
“We ran ourselves out of a couple of innings,” McDaniel said. “Those are mental mistake we can’t keep having at this point in the season.”
Lowman wants his team to be more focused at the plate.
“We had a really good week of offensive practice and then do this,” he said. “No disrespect to Cox, but I’m frustrated with the way our offense can’t get going.”
The Panthers notched two of their four hits in the first inning, but Sam Miller was eliminated in a double play, and Caleb Eder was left stranded. Lane Staples led off the second with a single, only to be stranded, while Vogel slapped a two-out single in the third and advanced on a passed ball, but was also left abandoned after Cox struck out Eder.
North’s Cooper Trinkle had a two-out double in the second and one of the team’s three hits in the fourth. Canaan Baum had the Bull Dogs’ other hit, a single in the first.