HARRODSBURG — Things were a little different than the last time Jeremy Shope and Greg Hammond crossed paths.
That was nearly nine months ago, when Shope’s Mercer County team surrendered 21 runs in the state championship game to a hard-hitting Central Hardin team on which Hammond was an assistant coach.
Hammond was sporting his championship ring when he brought the Casey County team he now coaches to Mercer on Tuesday, but Mercer had the upper hand on offense this time, producing 11 hits and running laps around the bases in an 8-1 victory at Amos Black Field.
“That’s two totally different types of ballgames,”Ã?Â¿Hammond said.
Mercer (4-3) scored in five of its six at-bats to win its third consecutive game and halt Casey’s three-game winning streak, but the Titans didn’t exactly knock down the fences.
That isn’t easy to do this season thanks to a new rule requiring teams to use less powerful bats. So they won with small ball, reaching base eight times on bunts or infield grounders, seven of which were hits. And their runners advanced on the basepaths 12 times on either stolen bases or defensive indifference.
“We were able to put some offensive pressure on them by running the bases, laying some bunts down, which you’re going to have to do a lot more of with these bats the way they are,” Shope said. “And the way we’re swinging it right now, we’ve got to try to create some offense. We’ve got some guys that can run a little bit,” he said. “Like I tell them, ‘You can’t steal first.’ We’ve got to be able to get to first somehow, and then we can do some things on the bases.”
Mercer got more than enough offense to give Jackson Stoeckinger his first victory. The left-hander, who transferred from Henry Clay for his sophomore year, allowed one run on three hits in four innings, striking out seven batters and throwing just 54 pitches so he can be available to pitch again either Friday or Saturday.
“He just needs time on the mound. We ran him out there on a small pitch count, because we want to have him back by the weekend,” Shope said. “He’s going to get better, IÃ?Â¿believe, as the year goes on. I’m excited about it.”
Hammond said he wasn’t disappointed with the work of Chris Lee, who pitched five innings for Casey (3-3), allowing seven runs on 10 hits.
“He’s one of our top pitchers, and IÃ?Â¿had confidence in him and knew he’d throw good, and I think he threw well early in the game,” Hammond said. “If the game had been a one- or two-run game, he could’ve went two more innings. But where the game was at that point, we’re better off giving him the five innings and resting him for Friday.”
Mercer scored single runs in each of the first two innings, then took a 5-0 lead with a three-run third on consecutive singles by Matthew Sims, J.T. Long and Luke Bosse.
Sims also had an RBIÃ?Â¿double — the only extra-base hit of the game — to cap a two-run fourth inning, and he and John Ingram were the only Titans with two hits.
Casey scored its only run in the fourth inning when Tyler Hayes singled, stole second base, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Daniel Bastin.
Hammond said even though the loss ended the Rebels’ early-season winning streak, they are a more confident team after stringing those victories together.
“That was huge for them confidence-wise. We’d been lacking that early on, and that’s a big ordeal we have to overcome,” he said. “We were really confident coming into the game today.
Casey County 000 100 0 — 1 5 4
Mercer County 113 201 x — 8 11 0
Chris Lee, Daniel Bastin (6) and Logan Weddle. Jackson Stoeckinger, Matthew Sims (5), Mason Thompson (6), Dakota Halcomb (7) and Alex Guay, Curry Brown (5), Brandon Doughty (6). W—Stoeckinger. L—Lee. 2B—Matthew Sims (MC).