It’s still early in the season, but heading into district play, the North Bullitt High School and Bullitt East High School baseball teams look to be the class of the Sixth Region.
The Eagles, 12-2, and Chargers, 8-4, exploded offensively while both teams were out-of-state at invitational tournaments. The Eagles participated in the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Chargers took part in the Disney Baseball Spring Training tournament in Orlando, Fla.
In their five games in Myrtle Beach, the Eagles scored a total of 62 runs on 64 hits, routing Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (Penn.) (16-0), Monticello (Va.) (9-1), East Carter (12-5), Lincoln County (16-1), and Boyd County (9-1) to go undefeated for the second consecutive spring trip.
“Offensively we really came alive this week,” North Bullitt head coach Brian Wise said. “It certainly makes life on your pitchers a heck of a lot easier when the offense is playing well. We got contributions from a lot of different guys, from the top of the order to the bottom of the order. A real productive week for us.”
The defending sixth region champions were led at the plate by University of Louisville recruit Logan Wyatt, who drove in 12 runs in the five games and hit a home run that Wise estimated traveled more than 400 feet through the air before landing well beyond the outfield fence. Wise also cited the play at the plate of leadoff hitter and centerfielder Daulton Walls and catcher Blake Benz, who moved behind the plate this season after spending last season in the infield.
“Those three guys probably stood out the most from an offensive standpoint,” Wise said. “But when you have as many hits as we had this week, it means we’re getting a lot of production from a lot of people. It starts with Logan. When we get guys on, he’s a tremendous home run hitter.”
In similar fashion to the Eagles, the Chargers scored 65 runs on 52 hits as they went 4-1 in Orlando. The Chargers thrashed Sheboygan North (Wis.) (12-2), Graves County (22-2), Ashland Blazer (13-), and Lakeland Regional (N.J.) (14-0), with only an 8-2 defeat to Eastern (N.J.) serving as a sour note on the trip. And to hear head coach James Bowles say it, the Chargers really only had one bad inning.
This has been a great week,” Bowles said. “We swung the bat extremely well and we played some pretty good competition from out of state. We lost to a pretty good team (Eastern) and we had one bad inning this whole trip. They scored six runs in an inning and beat us 8-2. But we swung the bat well, scored a bunch of runs, and the pitchers were throwing strikes and doing their job.”
Perhaps even more impressive than the offensive output for the Chargers was that they were without No. 1 pitcher and shortstop Christopher McKinley, who stayed back in Mt. Washington due this week due to a death in the family.
But even without McKinley, the Chargers lived up to their offensive potential. According to Bowles, Derek Kromenacker has taken his average up to a soaring .485 with 18 RBIs, 11 of them coming in Florida. “His rhythm is good. He’s in a groove,” Bowles said of Kromenacker.
In addition, lead off hitter Garrett Wilson, who has signed with the University of Southern Indiana, is hitting .361, pitcher Troy O’Brien is hitting .469 with no strikeouts in 42 plate appearances, and both of the team’s middle infielders this week, Matthew Bryant and Clayton Stallings, are hitting .412 and .379 on the season.
“I think the biggest key to scoring runs is that we put the ball in play so much,” Bowles said. “We’ve walked more than we’ve struck out.”
The strong performances from across the squad has led to some difficult roster decisions for Bowles and his staff as the team returns to Kentucky this weekend.
“I think we’re two deep at each position,” Bowles said. “This is probably the best outfield we’ve ever had with a lot of interchangeable parts on the infield. I have two third baseman, two second baseman, and multiple first baseman. It’s a good problem to have.”
With both teams coming home, now the focus turns to district play, with the Eagles set to play Southern and seventh-region leaders Male this week, while the Chargers take on Jeffersontown and historic region power Pleasure Ridge Park. For Bullitt East, it’s a chance for revenge after J’town knocked off the Chargers for the district title last season.
It’s two good measuring sticks about where we are,” Bowles said. “Both teams beat us last year.”
After the Eagles’ two mid-week games against local opponents, they hit the road again to travel to Paducah, where they’ll meet three of the state’s top teams in McCracken County, Hopkinsville, and Lexington Lafayette.
“Our pitching will get tested, no doubt,” Wise said. “It’s a good measuring stick and we’re looking forward to it.”