By BRADEN LAYER
---- — FLORA-South Central coach Curt Jones knew beating Flora, the Cougars 2A opponent Friday afternoon, would be tough. Doing so without the services of Fischer Tharp and Rudy Hablewitz would not make the task any easier.
As expected, the Wolves played sharp, and capitalized on a young, inexperienced South Central roster to prevail with an 11-1 win that was decided after five innings.
"We were just overmatched I felt like," Jones said. "Missing our leadoff guy (Tharp), our number two hitter (Hablewitz), that's a pretty good chunk of our better hitters that weren't here today."
Missing Tharp due to a college visit and Hablewitz to a nagging back injury, the Cougars struggled mightily to swing the bat against Flora's Christian Taylor. South Central finished the day with three total hits, the first of which came in the fourth inning.
"We saw a good pitcher," Jones said. "I don't know what he's usually like, but he was good today."
Against the Cougars, good was an understatement. Taylor struck out six batters during his four innings of shutout baseball, surrendering just one hit and walking a pair.
By the time Kyle Bray dropped a single short in center field in the top of the fourth, the Wolves had already opened up a whopping 10-0 lead. Flora scored four in the second inning off just two hits, as South Central starter Dylan Peters struggled to find his mark early on with three walks in the frame.
"It was Peters' first varsity start," Jones said. "At times he looked good, he's got a lot to learn, it was a good experience for him."
The Cougars were able to limit the damage to four in the second, but Flora put the game out of reach in the third. The Wolves tacked on six more runs in the following inning, scoring the last two on a deep shot from Bryce Pearce with the bases loaded that cleared Daniel Diss' head in center field.
Rather than fold and accept a shutout loss, however, the Cougars showed resolve in the top of the fifth.
Now facing Flora's Trey Holmes, Tyus Holmes stepped up to the plate for South Central and ripped a line drive to the outfield for a double and the second Cougar hit of the game. Two batters later, with two outs, Diss singled to center field to bring his teammate home and get the Cougars on the board.
Trey Thompson's RBI single for the Wolves ended the game in their next at bat.
Though it was a tough setback for Jones' club, the game did offer a silver lining, in that plenty of unproven newcomers got their first taste of varsity action.
"A lot of young guys got some good experience today," he said. "It wasn't much fun score-wise, but they've got to start somewhere."
South Central fell to 5-8 with the loss.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com
South Central 000 01x x 1 3 3
Flora 046 01x x 11 10 0
WP - Taylor LP - Peters
South Central: Diss (1B, RBI); Bray (1B); Holmes (2B).