The Dragons took control early and got a strong pitching performance from Patrick Ball as they defeated the visiting Redskins 10-0 in six innings Tuesday, handing the Skins their first county loss in more than two years.
“I've kind of been waiting on this,” Evans said. “We've played a real tough schedule to this point. You look at points in the season for kids to make a turn in the right direction, and I really felt like we were almost there, almost there, almost there. Today, we did what we needed to do.”
Ball (2-1) pitched his way out of jams in each of the first two innings. The junior right-hander, who was sidelined by a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season, struck out nine in a three-hit effort.
“Patrick's a horse,” Evans said. “He's had to nurse a sore shoulder all spring. I can't say enough about the job he did today - he dominated this game. That's one of the best-pitched games I've ever (coached).”
“Patrick pitched a great game,” Cumberland coach Jim Vicini concurred. “We didn't come to play - we didn't have our bats with us today.”
Cumberland had won 17 straight games against county opponents since falling to Harlan on April 27, 2004.
The Redskins were coming off a six-day layoff Tuesday, and Vicini noted the effect it had on his team.
“We've had two or three games canceled in the last week, and that's hurt us bad,” he said. “Our kids haven't been playing games, and we're just not ready to play right now. We'll get refocused, though.”
Cumberland leadoff hitter Chris Vicini put Ball in jeopardy right away as he smacked a single to left field and sprinted around to third when the ball got past Derek Sheffield.
The next batter, Zach Blanton, flied out to deep right, but Josh Johnson made a strong throw to hold Vicini at third. Ball induced a Philip Gilliam ground out and struck out Brad Watts to escape.
The Dragons connected for three hits off Cumberland's Drew Chamberlain (6-3) in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead.
Sheffield legged out a one-out infield single, and Jon Graham drew a walk. Both runners scored when J.D. Heck belted a double to deep center field.
Heck moved to third on Johnson's ground out and scored on a Brent Vannatter single to put the Dragons ahead by three.
Cumberland threatened again in the second inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Jonathan Fields opened the frame with a single to left. The next batter, Adam Boggs, grounded to third, but Vannatter's throw was dropped at second by Andrew Ditty. Brandon Burton loaded the bases with an infield single.
But Ball again put the clamps on the Skins. Vannatter fielded a Cody Hall grounder and threw home for the force out, and Ball fanned Brad Creech and Vicini to emerge unscathed.
“We stranded (four) runners in the first two innings, and when you do that you're going to lose - that's it in a nutshell,” Jim Vicini said.
Harlan padded its lead with three runs in the third. Sheffield again reached on an infield single and moved to second when Heck drew a walk. Johnson was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Sheffield and Heck scored when Vannatter's grounder was misplayed by Vicini for an error. The Dragons then attempted a suicide squeeze, and Thomas Farrow laid a perfect bunt down the first-base line and reached on an error by Blanton. Johnson's run gave the Dragons a 6-0 lead.
With Ball holding Cumberland hitless after the second inning, the Skins only got one more runner in scoring position. Vicini reached on a Vannatter error with two outs in the fifth and moved to second when Ditty dropped the ball on an attempted force out. But Ball fanned Gilliam to end the inning.
Harlan ended the game with a four-run outburst in the sixth inning. After Ditty walked to open the frame, Ball and Shane Miller smacked back-to-back singles to load the bases. Boggs' errant pickoff throw to third allowed Ball to score, and Heck drove in Miller and Sheffield with a double down the third-base line. A Blanton error on Johnson's grounder allowed to Heck to score, invoking the mercy rule and ending the game.
“This team has more good kids on it than any team I've ever had,” Evans said. “They keep showing up and playing every day, and that says a lot, when the can stay positive and keep working hard. They deserve this.”
Cumberland (14-7 overall, 5-2 district) will play host to Knox Central on Saturday.
“I know the kids we've got on this team, it's killed them (to lose this game),” Vicini said. “They're shell-shocked right now. They're going to realize, it's plain that we're just not working hard enough right now. We haven't taken our practices serious enough.”
Harlan (7-17, 4-4) returns to action Thursday at home against Cawood.
Cumberland 000 000 - 0 3 4
Harlan 303 004 - 10 7 3
Chamberlain and Boggs; Ball and Farrow. W-Ball (2-1). L-Chamberlain (6-3).