HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

BASEBALL: Young Athenians fall to Panthers in season opener

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With almost the entire lineup seeing their first varsity experience, the Crawfordsville baseball team dropped its season opener 10-4 to Riverton Parke on Friday night.

The Panthers (1-1) jumped on the Athenians with a pair of unearned runs in the first and blew things open with four more runs in the second inning to take a 6-0 lead. Crawfordsville had just two hits, scoring its first run in the fifth with a three run inning thanks to three Riverton Parke errors.

Crawfordsville was shorthanded on Friday night due to early season COVID-19 protocols, and its youth showed in Brett Motz debut as the Athenians new head coach.

“Our guys are just a little inexperienced,” Motz said. “We’ve got a lot to learn and coaches have to do a better job of preparing our players to look confident in what they’re doing out there and I think the only way to get that is obviously to practice hard, but also get some game situations in and get a feel for the game.”

The Athenians (0-1) committed a pair of early errors that allowed the Panthers to take an early lead. Pierson Barnes drove in a pair of runs with a base-hit in the top half of the second.

Offensively, Crawfordsville struggled to figure out Riverton Parke starting pitcher CJ O’Dell, who earned the win in six innings pitched, allowing three unearned runs on two hits, walking five, and striking out six.

“The guy went right at us, which is exactly what we want our pitchers to do, which is to be competitive and go right at hitters and our hitters just did not perform and did not execute,” Motz said. “Our guys are going to see that type of pitching and better for the rest of this season.”

Sophomore Isaac Rogers was a lone bright spot for the Athenians offensively with a pair of hits. Evan Chaney scored a pair of runs. 

Rogers joined sophomore teammates Cale Coursey and Kaiden Underwood along with freshmen Mateo Flores and Kale Wemer in the starting lineup with no high school baseball experience after a lost 2020 season.

“Couple of these guys went from 7th-grade baseball to varsity baseball tonight,” Motz added. “Obviously I’m a competitive person and I want them to accelerate to that level like right now, but the reality is it’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some things that need to be corrected and take some hard work and dedication doing a little more than just practicing for a couple of hours and just doing some things on their own to hopefully build some confidence in themselves. 

“And they will look prepared, and look confident. Because when you feel confident that’s when you feel relaxed and that’s when you can just play. Right now the guys aren’t knowing where to throw the ball and there’s just a lot of uncertainty.”

Senior Henry Taylor took the ball for the Athenians and suffered the loss, allowing six runs, three of which were earned on two hits, walking two, and striking out five. Coursey and Wemer each worked two innings of relief.

Crawfordsville will be back in action at home on Wednesday against Seeger.

Although understanding it may not happen overnight, Motz is looking forward to see his young team improve throughout the season.

“Several guys got some playing in last summer with travel ball, but half of our roster did not,” he said. “You think about taking a whole year and not getting game experience, when those guys really only have a short period of time to gain knowledge and gain experience and several of our guys did not take advantage of getting on teams last summer. These kids are going to adapt and they’re going to learn and progress and get better each day and I’m looking forward to having a conversation at the end of the season and saying ‘this is where we started and this is where we’ve come,’ and be really proud of the progress that we continue to make day in and day out.”

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