Cougars keep WCC hopes alive

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

North Putnam kept its West Central Conference baseball championship hopes alive Tuesday with a 9-6 victory over Monrovia in eight innings on the Bulldogs' field.

The Cougars (10-9 overall) finished 7-3 with their two-game sweep of the Bulldogs, who entered the series as the conference leader and departed 5-3. Greencastle holds the WCC lead at 6-2 with two games to play.

Blake Knowling drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a double, scoring Caleb Belcher. Michael Herrmann followed with an RBI double to score Knowling and later scored on a wild pitch.

Knowling's two-run home run in the sixth put the Cougars on top, 6-5. The junior centerfielder also threw out Monrovia's Robby Marley at the plate in the seventh inning, preventing the tying run from scoring. Knowling's throw went slightly up the third-base line where catcher Austin Day caught it and tagged the sliding Marley on the helmet.

Monrovia later scored to send the game into overtime and preventing Marley from scoring likely kept the Bulldogs from winning in regulation.

"The throw had to be perfect for the bang-bang play," North Putnam coach Norm Fish said.

Knowling's three RBIs and two hits were also turning-point plays.

"Blake Knowling came through big three times," Fish said. "He had a huge game. He's been Mr. Clutch all year."

Kyler Badten kept the Cougars in the game with magnificent relief pitching. The sophomore right-hander used a sharp breaking curve to strike out 12 and limit the Bulldogs to three hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings.

"Klyer did a great job," Fish said.

Badten replaced starter Jake Haste with one out in the second. The Bulldogs had two runs in and the bases loaded.

Badten retired Jeremy Gray on a line-drive to left, but Grant Benefiel drove in two runs with a single to left. Monrovia's fifth run of the inning scored on an error.

Badten struck out Brady Zier to close out the inning. It began a streak of seven straight Ks.

"Kyler takes a little bit to get going, for his curve to be effective," Fish said.

Badten didn't allow another hit until the seventh, a single by Gray that Marley tried to score on from second, but was thrown out. Gray later scored on a wild pitch and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt.

Tyler Watson's seventh home run of the season put the Cougars on top 1-0 in the second.

Belcher's two-run home run, his third of his freshman season, and like Watson, his second in two days, closed North Putnam's gap to 5-3 in the fourth.

North Putnam manufactured a run in the fifth on a walk to Haste, a sacrifice bunt by Bennett Hazelgrove that sent pinch runner Brodie Perrine to third and a safety squeeze bunt by Coy Flynn that became a throwing error.

Watson singled to lead off the sixth and Knowling's two-run home run put North Putnam on top, 6-5.

At Monrovia

N. Putnam 010 212 03 -- 9 10 2

Monrovia 050 000 10 -- 6 5 1

Haste, Badten (2) and Day; Gray and Zier.

WP: Badten. LP: Gray

HR: NP--Watson, none on in second; Belcher, one on in fourth; Knowling, one on in sixth. 2B: NP--Day, Knowling, Hermann. 1B: M--West 2, Coffman, Benefiel, Gray; NP--Badten, Haste, Belcher, Watson.