Henry County trips up Rockets in region opener

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By Todd Martin

The SCHS baseball lost its bid for a third straight 8th Region crown Monday when host Henry County upset the Rockets in the opening round of the region tournament.

Shelby County jumped out to a 4-0 lead when Clay Minor and John Hunter picked up RBIs in the first inning, and Hunter and Daniel Davenport picked up RBIs in the second. The four-run outburst knocked Henry County's starting pitcher from the game.

"Actually, I thought it was our best offensive performance in the past three weeks," SCHS head coach Bart Roettger said. "I think we hit every ball hard, did a better job hitting with base runners on, we got down bunts when we needed to and we only had one strikeout."

However, the Rockets couldn't hold the offensive pace over the final five innings.

Henry County, on the other hand, just kept chipping away.

"They did a very good job executing small ball, just dinking and dunking us," Roettger said. "We made a few errors and they got some big two-out hits. We had four errors and I think all of them were costly."

Henry County picked up three runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Rockets held a 5-3 lead before Henry County took control of the game.

The Wildcats tied the game on a Shelby error, and then took a 6-5 lead on a fielder's choice.

The Rockets had scoring opportunities in the sixth and seventh, but came up empty with runners in scoring position each time.

"We hit about 10 balls hard, but they were either line drives right at people or long fly balls that Henry County was able to track down," Roettger said. "Basically it comes down to the fact that we couldn't get the big hit when we needed to, and Henry County did. And (Henry County) didn't commit an error in the game. Our guys played with a lot of passion and intensity, and battled to the last out. They never quit."

Although the Rockets couldn't three-peat as region champs, Roettger said fans shouldn't forget what these seniors and this team have done this season and in the past few years.

"One loss doesn't dictate a whole career or define a season," he said. "Obviously when you are in a win or go home situation, that last loss sticks with you more than any others, but it doesn't define a player or a season," he said. "We have a great group of seniors that won two region titles, and we have a lot of very good players coming back next year."

Replacing those seniors won't be easy, but Roettger is confident that his team will be good and hungry next year.

"We have a lot of talent coming back next year, we have guys that have started all nine positions this year that will be back, so we're going to be OK," he said. "I think the biggest question is how we'll replace that leadership -- that's the biggest hole to fill -- and how hard are the guys going to work in the off-season. But I think we have a lot of potential and lot of talent that will be ready to come back, work hard and win next year."