NORTH VERNON — A split in a baseball doubleheader often leaves both coaches with a mixed bag of thoughts.
Such was the case in North Vernon on Saturday, where Columbus North defeated Jennings County 8-6 in the opening game before being shut out 2-0 in the nightcap by the host Panthers.
Perhaps it was Jennings County coach Gabe Lowman that finished the long afternoon with just a few more positives.
“Anytime you split two, it’s better to have won the second game,” said Lowman, whose team finished the season’s opening week with a 2-3 record.
The Panthers, 11-14 a year ago, who defeated No. 22 Seymour and lost to No. 3 Jeffersonville and Michigan’s No. 3-ranked Rockford earlier in the week, ended the tough streak in the schedule with a sterling performance by Sam Morris. The junior kept the Bull Dogs (2-2) off balance throughout his three-hit, three-strikeout gem.
“Sam hadn’t pitched this week, so I guess we could say he was our No. 5 starter,” said Lowman, smiling. “He may move up a notch or two now.”
Morris did his thing without the use of a blazing fastball.
“He had his breaking stuff really working today,” Lowman said. “I’ve seen him all over the place with his control, but today, he was right on it.”
Two hits in each of the second and fifth innings led to the single runs that proved more than enough. Morris completed his effort by also banging out two safeties at the plate. He scored the first Panther run. Austin Rath’s double led to the second.
North’s only serious threat came in the fourth inning when a trio of Bull Dogs got aboard base. One was picked off, and two fly balls ended the brief scare.
The game featured five double plays, three by Jennings County. With Cody Burton, Devin Mann and Coleden Hoeltke all making nifty plays, North made the Panthers earn all of their runs.
“We should have won both games,” North coach Brian Muckerheide said. “We got a nice game pitched by (freshman) Canaan Baum in the second game, but we did not have good plate approach.
“We proved we were not ready to stay focused through a doubleheader. We did not come out in Game 2 ready to hit the ball.”
North pounded out 11 hits in the opener, started by Jennings County’s ace sophomore, Caleb Eder. Burton was a perfect 4 for 4 and added a fifth hit in Game 2.
Mann, Dennis Brumfield and Brice McDaniel each had a pair of hits in Game 1. Mann and McDaniel both had doubles. Brumfield and Mann each had four stolen bases in the game in which North broke on top with a four-run second inning.
“We gave them a lot in the first game,” said Lowman, whose team made four errors. “Some of that was due to a lack of maturity.
“Defensively, we were much better in the second game.”
Christian Glass pitched the first six innings to get North’s day off to a good start. Baum pitched the seventh inning and then hurled the first six innings of Game 2 before giving way to Andrew Golinvaux in the seventh.
“Christian pitched well,” Muckerheide said. “Our defense was good all day. We just need to get more production out of our hitters, and we will.”