North Putnam baseball outlasts its county rival, South Putnam
ROACHDALE -- Winds may have been swirling all around them but South Putnam starter Grady McHugh and North Putnam hurler Jordan Nauert didn't seem fazed at all.
The two combined for 19 strikeouts but the Cougar bats had more sting when it counted, taking a 5-2 decision over the Eagles Tuesday afternoon.
North Putnam head coach Phil Webster said that aside from one inning, the pitching of Nauert and defense carried the day.
"We're young and we're struggling a little bit but, given the conditions we played in, we played pretty well," Webster said. "The big thing is that we played better defense than we played recently.
"We had one bad inning where we made some mistakes and it cost us. The key for our team is to not give up walks, errors or free bases, we have a chance to win every time we go out there.
Eagle head coach Zach Love said that the offense wasn't in gear soon enough or long enough to assist a solid defensive effort.
"I was a little frustrated with our offense," Love said. "We got off to a slow start and couldn't sustain anything at the plate.
"The defense was their today. North Putnam had a few timely hits. They got some good pitching out of (Jordan) Nauert."
McHugh fired plenty of strikes at the North Putnam batters, recording his first seven outs by punch-out and retired 10 total batters with K's.
However, McHugh also gave up eight hits and allowed three walks and two hit batsmen, two of which came back to hurt him in the second inning.
After hitting Nolan Ensor and striking out two batters, McHugh walked Coy Flynn and gave up a two-run double to Cameron McPherson.
Beau Green singled to keep the inning alive and Nauert singled in McPherson in the next at-bat to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Nauert cruised through the first three innings and Webster said that Nauert's command helped the squad's confidence.
"Jordan only had one walk, a 3-2 pitch to Gierke," Webster said. "That's huge. If he believes that the kids will play behind him and he throws pitches over the plate, we're a good team."
The lead was cut to one in the fourth inning after North Putnam's defense had a pair of lapses in the field.
A bunt single by Joe Waters was wiped out on Brandon Gierke's fielder's choice before Jake Carmichael smashed a double that skipped by Cole Peyton and scored Gierke.
Josh Stewart grounded weakly to shortstop Jack Kendall, but the throw was off-target and hit Stewart, allowing Carmichael to score and cut the gap to 3-2.
The hosts eased the pressure in the next inning after Flynn doubled, moved to third on a passed ball and was driven in by Nauert to push the lead up to 4-2.
The bottom of the order then came through for the Cougars after Ensor was hit again and was driven in by Daniel Huffman's double.
Nauert had little trouble aside from the fourth inning, striking out nine batters, including the last three of the game, to lockdown the win for the Cougars.
Love said that McHugh, even in defeat, had the stuff to match Nauert but didn't get the help needed to get a win.
"I thought Grady pitched a heck of a game today," Love said. "He matched Nauert but we didn't have the offense to make things happen today."
The squads meet again Wednesday as part of the makeup game from Monday and Love pointed out that the Eagles needed to get more balls in play on their home field.
"We've got to put the ball in play," Love said. "We popped the ball up a lot tonight. We need to make good contact and find some ways to get guys on base."
Webster said the squad simply needed Wednesday starter Beau Green and the defense to repeat what worked Tuesday night.
"We need to keep playing defense and put the ball in play," Webster said. "We struck out too many times tonight.
"If Beau throws the ball over the plate and we play defense, we'll be in the game. We'll be in every game if the pitcher throws over the plate and the outfield plays defense."
At North Putnam
South Putnam 000 200 0 -- 2 3 0
North Putnam 030 110 X -- 5 8 1
WP -- Nauert
LP -- McHugh
2B -- Carmichael (SP); McPherson, Flynn, Huffman (NP)