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Rockets split 2 spring games

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By Laura Clark

Southern’s 4-run second inning and fastball pitcher Reggie Young proved too much for the Rockets to handle as they lost, 8-2, Wednesday afternoon.

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Visiting Southern (6-5) squelched Shelby’s 3-game winning streak and showed SCHS Coach Bart Roettger that what he thought were his two strengths – defense and hitting – need some work.

“Our defense has to step up to the occasion when our pitchers do such a good job of commanding the strike zone,” Roettger said, adding that pitchers Eric Standafer, Trey Bailey and Dean Coleman combined for one walk and one hit batter.

In the second, Southern's Jeff Fortwengler and Scott Belt each doubled to score two runners. And both came with two outs.

“They [the Rockets] were kind of flat,” Roettger said. “We didn’t play with a lot of enthusiasm. We didn’t play very smart. That’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, the Rockets' offense wasn’t producing. In the third inning, Shelby was down, 5-1, but loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and two hit batters.

John Hunter stepped up and hit into a double play, though a run scored. But a high fly to left ended the inning.

Roettger said he was surprised by his players’ many popups with two strikes.

“We’ve faced more quality pitching in the first 11 games than in the last two years. Our talent demands that we deserve that kind of pitching. We’ve just got to rise to the occasion,” he said. “He [Young] was effectively wild. He got up to 89 mph. Our approaches showed we were a little tentative.”

But the Rockets (7-4) have been on the cusp of a productive offense, and players such as Matthew Purdom, Josh Dennison, Nate Clifton and Hunter did well the last few games.

“Hunter has done a great job taking every at bat pitch by pitch,” Roettger said. “Clifton, as a freshman leading off, has done a great job for us. Purdom, if we can get him to start hitting, we’ll be in good shape.

“I think our best baseball is ahead of us,” he added. “We’re going to be scary. That’s what we’re working toward, peaking at the right time.”

SCHS 8, Grant County 4

The Rockets came back from a 3-run deficit to defeat visiting 8th Region foe Grant County on Tuesday night.

The Braves (1-3) jumped on starting pitcher Caleb McDonald and went up 3-0 before James Wright scored John Hunter in the second to put Shelby on the board.

Cory Williams relieved McDonald early in the third and was the winning pitcher, improving his record to 2-1. Williams had five strikeouts, one walk and allowed no runs.

Roettger said the turning point was Taylor Boone’s diving defensive play at first base in the fifth. That pumped up the Rockets' offense. Shelby tied it up in the fifth, scored four runs in the sixth and shut out the Braves in the top of the seventh.

Leading the Rockets' comeback were Josh Dennison, Standafer and Hunter. All three went 2-for-4 at the plate, with Dennison driving in two runs.

Aaron Goe recorded the loss for Grant County.

“We talk about how when you’re down, that’s when character shows,” Roettger said. “Grant County put pressure on us. Our guys just chipped away, chipped away. I thought it was a great team effort.”