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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Cougars defeat Raiders in semistate opener

Monday, June 11, 2007

North Putnam senior Jake Mullis delivers a pitch in the first inning of the Cougars' 8-2 victory over Wapahani. Mullis surrendered just two runs and three hits. He finished the season 14-0.
HUNTINGBURG -- Coming into Saturday's Southridge Semistate, North Putnam's baseball players had already gone farther than any of them had ever been in the IHSAA Tournament.

Add to that the fact that they were playing in an actual stadium, not simply a high school field. Huntingburg's League Stadium is not just the home of the minor league DuBois County Bombers, but also the main field on which the film "A League of Their Own" was shot.

But the Cougars showed no signs of nerves.

"There's nothing to be nervous about. It's just a baseball game," Cougar coach Norm Fish said before the game.

After the Cougars came out and defeated the Wapahani Raiders, 8-2, in their afternoon game, Fish's opening comments were similarly simple.

"We made plays," he said.

The Cougars simply took the path to success they have traveled all year -- Jake Mullis pitched well, the defense backed him up and the hitters came through when they needed.

Mullis did what he's done all year -- he made hitters look worse than they really are. The senior allowed two runs on three hits and four walks. He struck out nine Raiders. Fish pointed out, though, that Wapahani was not a team full of easy outs.

"Jake couldn't relax and just throw the ball down the middle," he said. "Even with a six run lead on these guys, I wasn't comfortable. They have some good athletes."

Defensively, the Cougars made a couple of errors, but in each case, the players would come back and make a play.

A prime example of this came in the fourth inning, in which the Raiders were beginning to put up an offensive threat. A ball got past Brayden Dahlstrom in right field to allow a runner to advance to second. However, two batters later, the senior made a spectacular diving catch that likely saved a run. The Cougars got out of the inning without giving up a run.

"I was really concerned at that point," Fish said. "They put the bat on the ball, and we made plays. That was huge to dodge that."

The Raiders' two runs came in the fifth, when Tyler Reinke singled home Brandon VanMatre, and Bryce Cook brought home Reinke with a sacrifice fly. The Cougars were up 7-2 at that point, though, so they continued to stay loose and make plays.

At the plate, the Cougars' first damage was done in the second. Griffen Dahlstrom and Kyle Alcorn reached on a walk and an error, respectively. Brayden Dahlstrom then drove them both in with a single. Shelby Reed kept the threat going with a sacrifice bunt to advance Brayden to second base. Consecutive hits from J.T. Francies and Mullis then scored two more runs.

In the fourth, the Cougars added three more, with the first two coming on Mullis' second double of the game. A Jordan Berry single then plated Mullis.

The Cougars' final run came from Griffen Dahlstrom in the sixth. His solo home run hit the left field scoreboard, to bring the game to its final 8-2 score.

"That (home run) gave the guys confidence," Fish said.

The coach was pleased with the offense the entire game.

"Today I felt like we really put the bat on the ball," he said. "These guys just never quit."

One Cougar who got in on the offense was Jerrett Ban. The sophomore had struggled offensively down the stretch, so Fish had put a designated hitter in the starting lineup for him. However, when the spot came to bat in the fourth, Fish changed his mind. He brought Ban in with the thought of bunting. Even that changed, though.

"I brought him in to bunt, and I decided 'I'll let him see one pitch,' and he jumped on it," Fish said.

Ban took the pitch back to left field for a single. he scored two batters later on a Mullis double. Fish was pleased with the unexpected offense and for his player.

"I was glad to see that," he said. "Jerrett's a good athlete, and I like him on the bases."

With the victory, the Cougars moved on to the semistate final against South Spencer.

At Huntingburg

IHSAA Class 2A Southridge Semistate

Wapahani 000 020 0 -- 2 3 1

N. Putnam 040 310 X -- 8 11 2

Hoover, Howell (3) and Turner (W). Mullis and Berry (NP).

W -- Mullis (14-0)

L -- Hoover (7-3)

2B -- Mullis 2 (NP)

HR -- G. Dahlstrom (NP)

Next game -- With the win, the Cougars advanced to the semistate final against South Spencer.

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