Region 8 baseball: Anderson ends South's season

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NEW CASTLE – Just call them the “Battlin' and Blazin' Bearcats.”

Anderson County pitchers Conor Cotton and Josh brown fought their way through a day when they did not have their best stuff while Bearcat runners repeatedly frustrated South Oldham to score a 7-3 win in the Eighth Region high school baseball tournament Monday at Henry County High School.

“Neither one of them were very sharp, that is for sure,” said Anderson coach L.W. Barnes. “I really don't know what to say about them but they kept their composure when they needed to.”

Both battled through jams to lead Anderson to its fifth regional semi-final berth in seven years.

“I wasn't throwing my best game at all,” said Cotton, a senior.

However, the tone was set in the top of the first when Cotton, Anderson's leadoff hitter, reached on an error, then after Dusty Puckett sacrificed courtesy runner John Paul Garmon to second, Brandon Eliadis ripped a double to drive in Garmon and give the Bearcats the lead they never relinquished.

Cotton, who went five innings for the win, got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the inning, striking out five-spot hitter Drew Ellis and inducing Noah Frantz into a groundout.

“That was huge,” Cotton said. “If they had gotten those runs, it would have been different. I have to thank my defense for coming through.”

Barnes added, “We were very lucky to get out of that first inning with nothing. Then the next inning was just as big when we got a double play to get out of the inning.”

Offensively, Anderson simply took the fight to South Oldham the rest of the way, stealing five bases and forcing the Dragons into four errors. In the top of the second, the Bearcats plated two runs with the help of a pair of stolen bases and a passed ball by South catcher Tyler Fitch. Josh Brown scored on the miscue, before Mason Baker crossed the plate on Cotton's infield hit.

“We knew (Barnes) was going to use our speed today,” said Brown who pulled off a steal of third base just before the passed ball.

While South Oldham starter Andrew Lively, who has drawn the attention of some NCAA Division II and NAIA schools, was around the plate most of the day, the Bearcats worked him deep into the count. Lively eventually exited after five innings, giving way John Lowery, who gave up single runs in both the sixth and seventh innings.

More than 63 percent of Lively's pitches were strikes but Anderson took the count to at least three balls or two strikes 18 times. “Our guys made him throw strikes,” Barnes said, “and I think our speed did get to them a little bit.”

Anderson, balanced the attack through the lineup. The Bearcats stroked 10 hits, with seven different batters marking the scorebook. Cotton, Eliadis and Brice Stockton all had two hits.

South got single runs back in the third, fourth and sixth innings but Anderson scored twice in the fourth to effectively put things away.

Cotton gave way to Brown going in the sixth. The junior right hander got out of another jam, aided by a spectacular catch from center fielder Wesley Jorette that extra bases away from Jared Brussell with the sacks full. While courtesy runner Starr Thompson scored from third, Jorette’s grab slowed South Oldham’s final serious threat.

The next batter, Braden Sisson, lined softly to Anderson first baseman Max Crabtree to end the threat.

“We made the plays when we needed to,” Barnes said. “I was very pleased with how the kids came through.”