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Pratt: South Oldham's season is dwindling and looking for resurgence

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Column

By Elliott Pratt

CRESTWOOD — South Oldham senior Blake Bisig is recently finding himself in unfamiliar territory.

He hasn’t pitched since his little league days, but he returned to the mound during his last week of high school baseball.

He didn’t choose this route or predict it would happen, and neither did the rest of the team.

It’s also been uncharted waters for coach Todd Driskell. Before joining South Oldham last year on an interim basis, Driskell had retired from baseball after 15 seasons as the head coach - 22 years total - at Male, where he still teaches.

Driskell has never had a losing season until now. South Oldham ended its 2015 regular season schedule with a 12-4 home loss to Butler, putting the Dragons at 13-17 on the year.

Ever since South’s late April 3-2 win over North Oldham, its season has slowly rolled into an unfortunately timed muck of issues.

The Dragons only won three of their last 10 games while crutched on a thin bullpen without much offensive support.

The team has gone all season without junior pitcher Michael Higgins due to injury and late this year the Dragons lost Jared Brussell to a season ending hand injury and Will Moriarty injured his shoulder, which has taken him off the mound and into a designated hitter role.

Two pitchers down in an already thin staff, and guys like Blake Bisig have to step into new roles.

“If coach needs me to pitch, then I’ll pitch,” Bisig said. “When I get on the mound I’ll give it my best and whatever happens happens…our injuries have been a factor but I think we haven’t quite played to our full potential. There’s some games where we’ve come out flat and maybe the teamwork isn’t there like we would have hoped.” 

South looked to be heading in the right direction early last week, despite the timing of injuries. The Dragons held a 5-2 lead against No. 16 Trinity last Monday before giving up five runs in the sixth inning. The game went into extra innings before Trinity escaped with a one-run win. 

Driskell liked how his team responded with the next two days of practice. Positive vibes carried into Thursday’s game against Male into the fourth inning until they gave up six runs in each of the next two innings to lose 12-1 in a run-ruled game. 

“These things lead to big innings: walks, hit batsmen and errors,” Driskell said. “We had them all. It’s discouraging because here we’ve made progress all the way up until (Thursday) and then (Friday). Kids are pretty resilient. We are playing against some good competition. It’s not like we’re playing against the sisters of the poor. We have good competition and I’d like to think it would put us in position for success. We’ll find out Monday.”

Monday, of course, starts the District 29 Tournament against North Oldham at 7:30 p.m. at host Oldham County. South split the series with North, each resulting in a one-run outcome. The Dragons gave up a 4-0 lead in Game 1 to lose 5-4 and Nathan Straker stole home in the fifth inning of Game 2 to set up this rematch of the three/four seeds.

You couldn’t get more opposite than North and South directionally and between these two baseball teams.

The Mustangs finished their season 23-4 with a healthy staff and a lineup that is dangerous at the plate from top to bottom. And, only fitting to comparison, North’s bullpen is deep and fresh. 

Monday night, one of these team’s season will end. 

One will move on, one will go home. 

Even a few Mustangs have already acknowledged that you can throw records and statistics out the window when it comes to playing district opponents.

“There’s no love lost with those guys,” Driskell said. “I don’t have that same animosity, but there’s no love lost. I would be shocked if they didn’t rise to the occasion. We’ll get out there and take care of business. I’m not saying we have the advantage, but the pressure is on them. They have to produce and we don’t. We’re going into this as the underdog. They’re the favorite and we’re coming in here limping on crutches, literally.”

As evidently injured South may be, it’s not using that as an excuse. Take Bisig for example. A guy who, along with five other seniors, has seen three head coaches in his four year playing career stepping up when called upon in a time of desperate need. Against Butler, he threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed eight runs off nine hits while throwing three strikeouts. Those aren’t numbers that will keep your job, but it’s the hand South has been dealt, and Bisig’s attitude and energy to a new role could translate into a new attitude and new energy for South to begin it’s new season.

A new opportunity, and a new start starts Monday night.

“Obviously, I would have liked us to finish on a higher note, but it is what it is,” Driskell said. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You put them in position to be successful, but you can’t play for them. They’re going to have to do it. It’s their team.”