Northern Nash first-year coach Leonard Allen searched for his words Saturday night after the Big East Conference Championship game against Wilson Hunt. He never really found a way to sum up the Knights’ 13-1 loss.
Shortstop Chad Haggerty summed it up pretty nicely.
“They hit the ball. We didn’t,” Haggerty said. “Their pitchers got it done. Ours didn’t.
“Sometimes, you just have some of those days.”
Northern Nash (14-9) was beaten in every way. The Knights committed six errors and allowed nine free passes at Northern Nash High School.
The pitching staff struck out just six batters in 40 plate appearances by the Warriors (11-10).
The top-seeded Knights saw just 57 pitches in the six-inning rout – never facing more than 10 pitches in an inning nor five pitches in any at-bat.
“We didn’t pitch well, we didn’t play good defense, and that’s what wins ballgames for us,” Allen said. “That’s it.”
Although the Knights missed out on a two-title conference sweep and a three-game sweep of Wilson Hunt, the Big East’s No. 2 seed, Northern Nash didn’t really lose anything.
The Knights still will be the top seed in the Big East when the playoffs begin Tuesday. Momentum really wasn’t much of a factor either because Northern Nash had struggled for hits in its past four games, recording just eight hits in the past 23 innings.
“We just told the kids, ‘It’s over with,’” Allen said. “The game honestly didn’t matter. We can’t let it take away from our focus for Tuesday. It’s over with, done with and we’re going to move on and prepare for the playoffs now.”
Northern Nash had won its first outright regular-season Big East Conference title in school history and was trying for its first title sweep in school history as well.
Within two runs heading into the third inning and having weathered the Warriors’ early surge, Northern Nash’s battle began to snowball because of its own mistakes.
Three errors later, Wilson Hunt, which scored in five of its six innings, stretched the score to 6-1.
“We were trying to throw it before we catch it,” Allen said. “We just hit a downward spiral. ... It’s just one of those things when we had a chance to get out of the inning.”
The Knights rolled through three different pitchers, but none had much luck – with the defense behind them or missing the Warriors’ bats.
Chad Nelms allowed the first six runs, Tyler Barrett was dinged up for a few more in just 1 1⁄3 innings and Jacob Green closed the game by allowing three runs in the sixth.
The one factor that couldn’t be left to bad luck was the Knights’ poor approach at the plate.
“We keep telling ourselves to jump on teams,” said Haggerty, who faced just two pitches but singled twice and drove in the Knights’ only run. “When they came out with that big first inning, we knew we needed to do the same.
“We just got too antsy. Guys wanted to do too much – trying to crush it when they should just be making contact and going for a base hit.”
Knights catcher Hunter Moore faced five pitches in the fourth inning before grounding out to the pitcher. That was the longest at-bat of the night for Northern Nash.
Despite just two strikeouts, no batter in Northern Nash’s lineup averaged more than 3 1⁄2 pitches per at-bat – four averaged less than two.
“We work on a lot of things in practice, trying to get them to swing the bats aggressively and to swing at good pitches,” Allen said. “... We’re young, and sometimes with youth, it comes with swinging at bad pitches and not knowing what to do at the plate discipline-wise.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org