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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

NMCC shuts down Kennett

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

NMCC first baseman Trey Sullinger snares a popup.
KENNETT -- After finding out their best left-handed hitter and pitcher was out for the season, the Kennett Indians didn't seem to be themselves Monday.

The Indians committed three errors and were held to just one hit in an 8-3 loss to the New Madrid County Central Eagles at Indian Park in SEMO Conference action.

Kennett received bad news before even taking the field Monday when it was announced that left-handed pitcher and first baseman Ryne Branum's injured elbow would require season-ending surgery.

With Branum sidelined, the Indians (9-2, 5-2 SEMO) struggled, allowing four unearned runs, walking seven batters and going hitless except for Robert Lockett's fourth-inning RBI single.

"We miss him, but we're going to have to pick it up and go from there," Kennett coach Bart McAtee said. "Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. You got to finish the season, play hard, play more aggressive and be ready to go.

"Things like that happen in baseball. You got to go on -- you can't pout about it and think about it all year. I think it was on their minds today, but we got to step it up. We got a lot of season left."

One reason the Indians struggled offensively Monday were NMCC pitchers Thomas Higgerson and Jordan Kimball. Higgerson held the Tribe to just one hit and no earned runs through 5 1/3 innings despite having a blister on his left (pitching) hand.

"The young man just gutted it out and gutted it out," NMCC coach John Jones said. "He threw a heck of a ballgame."

Despite its struggles, Kennett had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Down 4-3, the Indians had the tying run on third base with one out -- and the go-ahead run at second with two out -- but failed to score.

"We needed some contact there. We didn't get contact," McAtee said. "We had two strikeouts there with second and third. You got to put the bat on the ball there, at least make them field it.

"Because you never know -- you get a groundball, they might miss it, line drive -- you just got to put the bat on the ball, and we struck out there two times in a row. You don't have to play any defense with a strikeout."

The Eagles seemed to grab momentum after holding Kennett in the sixth, putting up four runs in the top of the seventh inning to ice the game. Kimball pitched a hitless seventh inning to close the door.

"I knew when Kimball came in it was going to be tough because throws really hard, got a good curveball," McAtee said. "But, we should have done more with (Higgerson), not that he's a bad pitcher, but I thought we should have put the bat on the ball more and we didn't.

"(We) had a couple chances there and didn't get the runs in. When you miss opportunities like that, it comes back to bite you and it did today."

Missed opportunities weren't the only things that hurt the Indians Monday. Kennett made three errors in the first three innings, leading to four unearned runs as NMCC took a 4-0 lead in the top of the third inning.

"(Starting pitcher) Heath (Storey) didn't have much support behind him today," McAtee said. "We had a couple errors. I thought Jared (Hughes) came in and pitched pretty well and we still made an error or two behind him. Defense was the problem today, I thought.

"You can't give a good team like New Madrid three or four runs by making errors and expect to win."

However, the Tribe fought their way back into the game thanks to four Eagles errors in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Chase Smith and Cody Dawson reached on fielding errors to open the inning, and after Smith was forced out at home, Lockett's single to left field drove in Dawson to cut the NMCC lead to 4-1.

Two batters later, Jeremy Hughes flyball was misplayed twice, allowing Lockett and Jared Hughes to score and make it a 4-3 game.

However, Kennett did not score the rest of the way.

"We had a little trouble hitting today," McAtee said. "We switched the lineup around a little bit with Ryne out. Some guys hit in some unfamiliar places. I don't know -- we just didn't hit the ball well."

The Indians are not scheduled to play again until next week when they take part in the Bootheel Conference Tournament.

Despite Monday's loss and the loss of Branum, McAtee is optimistic about Kennett's chances this season.

"Let's see what we can do the rest of the year, because I think we got the talent to do it," McAtee said. "We're going to miss Ryno, his pitching and his bat, but somebody's going to have step up and take his place. We're going to have to play more as a team and do things more as a team. Hopefully we can get something going again."