By Garth Shanklin
A roller coaster ride of a season for the Clermont Northeastern baseball team hit a bit of a downturn after a crushing loss to Blanchester at the Reds High School Showcase on Friday, April 20.
The game was a classic pitchers duel. CNE struck for a run in the third inning on a walk, a single and a groundout. They would not score any more runs for the rest of the night. Blanchester tied the game on a pair of singles, a sac bunt and a sac fly.
The game stayed 1-1 until the 10th inning, when a single and a pair of groundouts put a runner on third. The run scored on an error, which fits perfectly with CNE head coach Tyler Sanders’ description of the team’s play.
“It’s been a bit up and down for us,” Sanders said. “We show flashes where we look like a really good team, and then the next moment we fall off a bit. We’ve been a bit up and down, but we’re always competing, that’s what I’m happy with.”
The loss to the Wildcats was tough, according to Sanders.
“That was a heartbreaker,” Sanders said. “To play that well for that long and it all falls apart…we competed and it was a heck of a game, tip your cap to them. They played great.”
Sanders also noted his offense has played well of late, the game against the Wildcats notwithstanding.
“I can’t be happier with the way they swing,” Sanders said. “Gavin Hickey’s really aggressive at the plate, he likes to swing at fastballs and he hits them well. I don’t know if there’s a pitch David Pride can’t hit, the way he’s swinging this year. We saw it last year a little bit from what I saw, reading up on his stats. He’s shown he’s a consistent hitter with power, too.”
One of the team’s leading pitchers is sophomore Nick Ferguson. Sanders said Ferguson’s array of pitches makes him tough to track down as a hitter.
“He has multiple pitches that he can locate consistently,” Sanders said. “He’s got a good fastball that he can put wherever he wants, he’s got a great curve ball and he throws a change up really well. Him being able to throw three pitches like that whenever he wants to has made him really successful, and its’s showing because people have a hard time hitting him.”
It’s not just Ferguson having a big year for the Rockets at the plate.
“Blake King has had a big year for us,” Sanders said. “He consistently gets on base. I’ve got some guys that are on their way. Keith Cooper came in and pitched great against Blanchester, and that’s the guy we expected him to be. He’s starting to figure it out as the season goes on.”
Another key Rocket bat is on the mend after being injured earlier in the season.
“Of course, Trent Ammen has been great for us but due to injury we haven’t seen him for a while,” Sanders said. “He had been one of our more consistent hitters but we’ve lost him for the last week and a half. We’ve seen a lot of guys step up and we’re just trying to play through injury now.”
The CNE pitching staff, out side of Ferguson, also has shown strong signs this season.
“King’s thrown well for us when he can,” Sanders said. “His arm has been a little sore, so we don’t throw him as much but he’s been consistent. After that, one of our better relievers has been Olivia Bricker. Kids have a hard time hitting her, she locates and throws strikes. Kids have a hard time sitting back and hitting her.”
Sanders knows all the pieces are there, he just hopes the team is able to put things together come tournament time.
“We’re just hoping we can right the ship and have a good little run in the tournament,” Sanders said. “It feels like we’re there already, this is the shortest season I’ve ever been involved in.”