FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind.
After getting handled via the run rule Wednesday, there were all sorts of ways the Union County baseball team could have responded heading into Thursday’s key Tri-Eastern Conference match-up in Fountain City.
The traditional area power reacted the best way possible: Good pitching, timely hitting and winning.
The Patriots improved to 2-0 in TEC play by defeating conference foe Northeastern 6-3.
“A big emotional victory today,” Union County coach Jeff Mathews said. “… I told them I couldn’t be more proud of the way that they responded. … We still made some mistakes, but certainly responded in a whole different way. That’s a very good Northeastern team.”
Gehrig Shepler tossed a complete game, striking out eight and walking just one. Hunter Miller homered and Bryce Fields hit a pair of doubles as the Patriots (4-1, 2-0) rebounded from Wednesday’s ugly, 17-1, five-inning loss to Franklin County.
“I think the key for us was that we actually came in today with our minds straight,” Shepler said. “Everybody was here ready to play, warm-ups were looking good, everybody was focused today. … I was proud of the guys for doing that.”
Shepler kept Northeastern hitters off balance all night, but the Knights (2-1, 1-1) led early.
Northeastern’s Conner Silvers hit an RBI double in the second inning, before Fields scored on an error in the third.
Garrett Dill hit an RBI single to give the Knights a 2-1 lead, before an RBI double by Union County’s Clint Spaeth scored Jake Stout to knot the game at 2.
Silvers struck out six and walked one over four innings, but was removed after hitting Shepler to start the fifth inning.
Miller walked, before Shane Mosley drove in pinch-runner Luke Chambers on an RBI single. An RBI bunt single by Bryce Jenkins scored Miller to give the Patriots a 4-2 lead.
Fields doubled and scored in the sixth inning as Miller blasted a two-run home run deep over the left-field fence.
“Hunter’s got so much power. Every time he gets one up in the air, you think it’s gone. That’s just what he does, hits bombs,” Fields said. ” … It’s nice to see us bounce back. This team that has a lot of heart, we try really, really hard. It’s nice to see that. Even after a not-so-good loss, we bounced back and had a really good game.”
Fields had two hits to lead the Patriot offense, while Dakota Stansberry also doubled. Miller, Mosley, Stansberry, Jenkins, Stout and Spaeth each had one hit.
Silvers and Del Caudill combined for 10 strikeouts in the loss. Silvers and Dill each had two hits, while Caudill also doubled and Dill, Silvers and Austin Kenworthy each had an RBI. Kenworthy drove in the final Northeastern run on a groundout in the sixth inning.
“Coming into the game, they walked through that gate and there’s seniors on that team that have never been beat by Northeastern. We’ve got seniors on our team that have never beat Union County,” said Northeastern coach Steve Bray, in his first year leading the Knights. “They walked through the gate, they expected to win and that was the difference. It was a little bit of a mental block there, we’re trying to break those barriers down, that’s what we’re trying to get rid of.”