Despite tough losses, GRC baseball off to promising start

Published 12:21 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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Tuesday afternoon’s matchup for the George Rogers Clark Cardinals baseball team did not go according to plan, as they were shut out 3-0 against 40th District rival Montgomery County.

However, coming off the excitement of GRC’s Final Four and second-place state finishes in boys and girls basketball, it appears that athletic excellence is also on the diamond.

The Cards baseball team (6-2), who surprised many on their way to a 10th Region Championship game last year in Coach Chris Varney’s first year in a Cardinal uniform, opened the year on a five-game winning streak and outscored its opponents 44-5 in the process.

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“Our pitching’s good,” said Coach Varney. “We’re going to have a chance on the mound every day. We’re trying to win one more game than we did last year.”

The Cards’ pitching staff features several returnees, including Keyonte Back.

A senior this season, Back saved arguably his best for last in 2022, as a scoreless relief appearance helped the Cards overcome a deficit en route to defeating Mason County 10-9 in a thrilling nine-inning, 10th Region quarterfinal matchup.

On the mound, the Cards also return senior Devlin Gray and juniors Zac Brookshire, Lochlan Hansel, and Jordan Seliz.

Among position players, returnees from last season include junior infielder Brady Davis, a verbal commit to the University of Louisville.

The Cards also showcase senior outfielder, designated hitter, and Alice Lloyd signee Jake Sears, junior catcher and outfielder J.P. Gaines, infielder Caden Matthews, outfielder Carter Maynard, first baseman Caden Spicer, sophomore outfielders Kamden McAlpin and Ben Fulks, and infielder Chase Wheeler.

New players to the team this year include 8th grader and third baseman Abrahm Howard, who carries a batting average of .471 with seven RBIs through six games.

On Tuesday, when the Cards took on Montgomery County at their home field, they looked to avenge a 6-0 loss from last year’s 40th District Championship Game.

Behind seven innings of five-hit pitching thrown by Hansel, they cut the Indians’ run total in half.

However, a two-run single by Ethan Oberholzer and a third run scored on an error – all in the second inning – was enough for the Indians.

Senior Matt Rowlett – who finished the day with a 91-pitch complete game and six strikeouts – held the Cards to only two baserunners on a walk and a fifth-inning single to Howard.

“I felt like my [velocity] was down a little bit, so I just focused on hitting spots and mixing in the off-speed [pitches] well”, said Rowlett. “They’ve got some really good hitters there at the top of the lineup.”

The Cards continued their week of baseball with 7-0 loss to Scott County and 10-0, run-rule victory over Morgan County. They will conclude the week with a double-header against Campbell County and Perry County Central in Winchester on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively.

“It’s just a long season. We just have to keep at it,” Varney said.