By Ethan Colbert
The Bowling Green Bobcats baseball team played host to their inner-county rival, the Louisiana Bulldogs, on March 22. The ‘Cats rallied from an early game deficit to the defeat the rival ‘Dogs in a 13-3 affair.
This was the first win this season for the Bobcats, after the team was defeated in their season opener by the Centralia Panthers, 6-10.
BGHS senior Stephen Merz was on the pitcher’s mound for BGHS, throwing for four innings and recording eight strikeouts. Merz gave up three hits, struck two batters, and walked one batter.
In a post-game interview, Bowling Green High School Head Coach Dean Streed said despite the winning result, he still saw room for improvement for the starting pitcher.
“I expect a lot out of him as a senior,” Streed said. “This could have been a quality start for Stephen, but Stephen knows that he can do better and that he is going to have to do better when we play against more quality teams. He knows and our other pitchers know that they are going to have to use every one of their pitches when they take the mound. Tonight, if you noticed, he was using his fastball a lot during the first four innings. After we pulled him, he came down to the bull pen because he knew he needed to get that curveball working for him.”
Mathew Church came into the game to provide relief for the ‘Cats and he pitched one inning for the Bobcats. In his outing, Church threw 12 pitches — striking out one batter, walking another and giving up two hits.
In addition to his throws towards home plate, Church also displayed a knack for picking off base runners.
In the waning moments of the fifth inning, Church quickly made a throw to first base where the a stunned Louisiana Bulldog was quickly called out.
Following the game, Church said he didn’t allow his mind to focus on being nervous about taking the pitcher’s mound. Instead, the BGHS sophomore said he was focusing on getting the next batter out.
“I was just thinking about how I could get that next out,” Church said. “I was taking it one pitch at a time.”
Streed said from his position in the dugout, he could tell that Church was focused on making good throws. The head coach also said he expects Church to develop into a quality pitcher by the end of his tenure at BGHS.
“Seeing him throw, you can tell that he is only going to get stronger as he gets older,” Streed said. “For him to come out tonight and to get this varsity experience is a big plus for him and this team.”
Leading the offensive attack for the Bobcats were George Glenn, who hit his first career home run in the bottom of the fifth inning, and Stephen Merz, who went 3-for-4 from the plate.
After the game, Streed said he congratulated Glenn on a hard hit ball.
“I don’t think anyone expected it from him, but that hit gave everyone a chance to understand how hard George has worked,” Streed said. “To see where he started as a freshman, learning to play catcher behind Trey Nichols and then to see how much work he put in the offseason, just makes you happy for him. I mean, I remember coming to school this summer at 7 a.m. and I would see a few of my guys in the batting cage. George was one of them. I couldn’t be happier for him, because his hard work paid off.”
While longtime fans of Bowling Green High School athletics always relish a win over their inner-county rival, the Bowling Green High School Head Coach said he hopes his team doesn’t dwell on it.
“Yes, it was a win,” Streed said. “But was it a quality win. I can’t say that it was. I told the team tonight after the game that our main goal is to clean up our game. I tell them to clean it up not because I want them to feel added pressure about playing baseball, but because I need them to trust their instincts and to make routine plays.”
‘Routine plays’ is what Streed says will help propel the Bobcats through a rigorous non-conference and conference schedule this spring.
“We have a tough schedule against a lot of championship caliber teams,” Streed said. “Our goal is not to have an undefeated season. Our goal is to be a better team by the start of playoffs on May 8 because we played some really tough teams throughout our season.”
Up next for the Bobcats will be Monday, April 16, against the Macon Tigers. Currently, the ‘Cats are 2-4 (1-0 in EMO Conference). The Tigers are 6-1 and are coming off of a 14-0 win over Louisiana last week. Monday’s game is scheduled to be played at the Bowling Green High School Sports Complex. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.