Cougars ready for tonight's regional

Tuesday, June 5, 2007
North Putnam first baseman Griffen Dahlstrom jumps for a ball at Monday night's practice.

BAINBRIDGE -- What a difference a year makes.

As the North Putnam Cougars progressed through the Class 2A Sectional, it must have seemed as if they were experiencing déjà vu.

In their opening game, they defeated the Cascade Cadets, as they did a year ago and eventually faced off against the South Putnam Eagles in the sectional finals, again mirroring last season. But this sectional would be one the Cougars will long remember.

The Cougars run-ruled a young South Putnam squad to grab the sectional title, which resulted in North Putnam hosting its regional contest against Triton Central (19-10) on Tuesday. But the run for the Cougars has not been an easy one.

"There was a stretch when we had like 16 errors in a four-game stretch and I told the guys before our game with Western Boone that we weren't ready for (the postseaon)," NP coach Norm Fish said.

Fish noted the younger players on the team stepped up their play after that game and a noticeable improvement was seen.

Fish, in his first year as head coach, noted that the season has been a learning experience.

"I have learned a lot this season as far as being a head coach and it has also been a lot of work for me," Fish said.

"Once we got started with our practices, things started to come together and there were a few things I felt we needed to work on from last year. The kids picked up on those things right away and anything we asked of them they were willing to do," Fish continued.

North is quick to talk about team and not individual, but some specular individual play is hard not to talk about.

Senior Jake Mullis entered the post-season with 108 strikeouts and an ERA around .50 while allowing just two hits a game.

"We really just need Jake to be Jake and hopefully we can get him some run support," Fish said. "This team knows what is expected of them and they are ready to get going."

North's one-two punch of Mullis and Brayden Dahlstrom has kept teams struggling all season long. They combined for the Cougars three wins at sectional, highlighted by Dahlstrom's no-hitter against South Vermillion.

At practice on Monday, North hit the cages to continue to improve on its assault at the plate. The bats have been good to the Cougars this season as North has five players with a batting average a hovering close to .400.

As the practice went along, the slight sprinkle turned into a downpour, but the Cougars refused to head indoors. Shouts to the heavens from the field only intensified the rains but the Cougars kept on going.

With the entire team practicing in the rain and a smile on almost every face, something Fish said before practice was entirely evident.

"It has been great to see the kids come together as a team and really they are good friends on and off the field," Fish said. "This is a good team."

Although the practice was light and filled with laughs and even some jokes it was evidenced in every player's eyes that they mean business and plan on giving the Tigers all they can handle.

North Putnam hosts the Class 2A Regional against Triton Central Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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