By RYAN CZACHORSKI
---- — Effingham fell behind early Thursday afternoon at Paul Smith Field when Shelbyville’s Luke Hatfield hit a long sacrifice fly to center field in the first inning.
That lone run would be all the Rams would need, and all they’d get as well, as Effingham fell to Shelbyville 1-0.
The Flaming Hearts (1-3) could not come up with a timely hit, an issue that’s plagued them in each of their three losses this season.
“We had several hits, we just couldn’t put them together back-to-back,” said Effingham coach Chris Fleener. “The guys’ approaches at the plate are looking better. It’s still early, and we’re hoping we can find the right players and put the right players back-to-back to get the hits together.”
Effingham has scored two runs or fewer in each of its three losses, and scored 12 runs in its lone win against Altamont.
In each of the last five innings, Effingham had a man in scoring position with two outs, but could never bring the runner home against Shelbyville ace Andrew Hawkins.
The Hearts’ best chance came in the third. Nathan Vail led off with a single, and advanced to second on a bad pickoff throw by the Shelbyville catcher. The next two batters were retired.
Carter Hayes hit a line drive up the middle, but Fleener held Vail at third when Eli Miller gathered the liner quickly. Drew Levitt ended the inning by flying out to right field.
“The kid had a good arm, and when Nathan came around third, the center fielder came up with it pretty clean,” Fleener said. “Maybe I should have gambled on that one, but it was early in the game and I tried to play it safe.”
In the fourth, Preston Walker advanced to second with two outs, only to have Kevin Daugherty ground out to third.
The bad luck continued in the fifth, when Braydon Bone and and Carter Hayes reached base with two outs. Levitt came up again and hit a flare to right field, only to have Hatfield rob him of a hit with a rolling catch.
Trenton Frey doubled in the sixth, but Walker and Daugherty failed to bring him home. In the seventh, Kennan Mahaffey reached on an error by Neil Yockey, and advanced to second on a grounder. Carter Hayes flew out to Miller to end the game.
For the Hearts, Fleener said the batting woes are something that needs to be worked out.
After a rough first inning on the mound, Effingham’s Alex Carie settled down and pitched with poise for the remainder of the game in his first start of the year.
He cut off a rally in the third inning following a Lucas Duckett leadoff single. Duckett advanced to third on a bunt. Jake Keown hit a sharp grounder up the middle, which Carie jumped for, fielded and cut down Duckett attempting to advance to third for the second out.
Carie allowed just the one unearned run on three hits in 6.1 innings, and struck out three. He got in to some trouble of his own in the seventh, walking back-to-back hitters with one out.
Matt Steffen came in, struck out Duckett and got Miller to pop out to short to end the inning.
“We saw some good leadership out of Alex Carie, he stepped up and did a great job pitching,” Fleener said. “Matt Steffen did a great job coming in and getting us out of that inning.”
Frey was 2 for 3 with a double, while Bone, Hayes, Vail and Khye Heuerman all had singles.
Effingham looks to get the bats going today when they travel to Highland.
Shelbyville 1, Effingham 0
Shelbyville 100 000 0 — 1 3 2
Effingham 000 000 0 — 0 6 3
WP - Hawkins LP - Carie
Effingham: Frey (2-3, 2B), Hayes (1-3, BB)