CLAYTON -- Bloody but not broken, North Putnam catcher Austin Day lifted his team to victory Wednesday night.
Sporting a mouthful of stitches in his mouth following a Saturday injury, the sophomore drove in four runs, including the game-winning three-run bomb, as the Cougars (14-13) ousted county rival South Putnam 7-3.
Taking a break from his normal position in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader, Day took a hop at second base in the mouth, busting open his lip.
"I was a little worried about Austin. He got hit in the mouth Saturday and got 18 stitches in his mouth. We didn't know how he was going to react," Cougar coach Norm Fish said. "He's a tough kid, so I figured he was going to play. He had a big hit in the fourth inning, and we ended up needing it."
In his first at-bat, a run-scoring fielder's choice, Day wore a softball-style facemask on his helmet. Then on his second at-bat, his three-run homer, rolled around, the mask was gone.
Early on, it looked like the Eagles' (7-16) veteran leaders might rule the day. Junior Rob Gibson reached on a walk and was plated on a double by Grant Zimmerman. Zimmerman went to third on a passed ball before Aaron Parker drove him in with a sacrifice fly.
Fish was pleased with how his young team reacted to getting behind early.
"We came out and got down 2-0 right off the bat, but my guys came out and took three runs back," Fish said. "That's not something we've done a lot this year. We'd get down early and it would kind of hang with us."
The Cougars got three runs in the second without a base hit. An error, a walk and a balk put Tyler Watson in position to score on the Eagles' second error of the inning. Another walk loaded the bases before Jake Haste scored on Day's fielder's choice. Coy Flynn then gave the Cougars the lead with a sacrifice fly to score Blake Knowling.
Ahead 3-2, Cougar pitcher Kyler Badten settled in during the middle innings. At one point between the third and fifth innings, he struck out six consecutive Eagle batters.
He finished the game with 13 strikeouts, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks.
"Kyler Badten did a great job on the mound," Fish said. "He got his breaking ball working better the last couple of innings and was able to be effective with that."
The Cougars padded his lead in the fourth, when Blake Knowling reached on catcher interference and Michael Herrmann on another error before Day plated all three runs.
On the mound for the Eagles, Zimmerman made only a couple of mistakes on the night, but it was the mistakes around him that killed their chances.
"I thought Grant pitched very well. He gave up two hits and we made some errors behind him," coach Ryan Gilman said. "North took advantage of their opportunities. They scored three one inning, three another and one the other."
Zimmerman surrendered seven runs on two hits and six walks.
The senior also had a nice night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI. His only out at the plate was the one that ended the game.
"Grant played really hard, really well. He had to battle through a lot of adversity all year," Gilman said. "He was 3-for-4 -- I think the only out was the last one. He hit the ball hard every time up and had a finesse with the bunt hit. He pitched really well on the mound, kept them off balance."
Looking ahead, the Cougars will play at 10 a.m. Monday against the winner of Monrovia and Speedway, whose game was pushed to 11 a.m. Saturday due to weather. Fish liked his team's ability to generate runs, but knows they'll have to be better when they are back in action Monday
"We've got to come out ready to hit the ball better. We're not going to score seven runs on two hits very often," Fish said.
Sectional 46 First Round
S. Putnam 200 010 0 -- 3 4 3
N. Putnam 030 301 X -- 7 2 1
Zimmerman and Thompson; Badten and Day.
WP -- Badten
LP -- Zimmerman
2B -- SP: Zimmerman
HR -- NP: Day
RBI -- SP: Zimmerman 2, Parker; NP: Day 4, Flynn 2, Knowling
Next game: North Putnam will play the winner of Monrovia and Speedway at 10 a.m. Monday.