Harding tops Bristol 2-0 in defensive battle

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Harding's Carter Knupp fires in a pitch during the Raiders' win over Bristol on Thursday.

WARREN — Just two games into the season and Harding has found two pretty different ways to win.

There was little room for error in Thursday’s 2-0 victory over Bristol, and the Raiders took advantage of the opportunities given to get past Bristol in a defensive effort.

In game one, it was the opposite. Harding took down Lakeview 9-8. Raiders coach Andrew Burnett noted that even though there’s still plenty of work to do to put things together, it’s better to do that work after wins.

“That was our talk after the game. I said, ‘We haven’t played a great game all year.’ We had nine hits the first game against Lakeview, and we couldn’t play defense,” Burnett said. “Today, our defense was outstanding but we couldn’t hit the ball. And when we did, we made some boneheaded mistakes on the bases. When we put it all together, we’re going to be good.

“I’d rather learn lessons and be 2-0 than play two bad games and be 0-2. We’ve got a few lucky bounces. We hit a couple balls hard today, right at them and they made plays. They played well defensively and they pitched well. Credit to them.”

The Raiders had a few opportunities to add to the scoresheet, with runners in scoring position, but some youthful mistakes on the bases undid those.

“We’ve just got to be smarter on the bases,” Burnett said. “They’ve got to be aware when we give a steal sign, or a hit and run, or a hit and pop up and the runner never looks at the plate and never sees where the ball is. We got two or three double plays like that in the last couple of games. We’ve just got to clean it up. We’re smart kids that don’t make mistakes usually and it’s early season and you know how it goes. It’s going to happen.”

As a freshman, Gummy Hart is already making himself known. Also the team’s starting shortstop, Hart was the catalyst for the Raiders’ second run of the afternoon, knocking home Airiz Coleman-Bey. Coleman-Bey scored the game’s opening run, reaching on a Panther error, and had two hits.

Senior Carter Knupp pitched a complete game shutout for the Raiders, surrendering six hits, with three strikeouts, walking two.

As the group cleans things up and refines its game, Burnett is optimistic.

“We don’t have a ton of experience, but the guys we have know the game,” Burnett said. “They’re gelling together, and they like being here and it’s fun. We’ve just got to get smarter.”

Diesel Williams took the mound for the Panthers, sitting down four.

The offensive woes plagued Bristol as well, leaving 10 runners on base. Harding’s fielders played a big role in stifling the Panthers, but after leaving a combined 24 runners on base in the first two games, Bristol coach Jeff Thompson wants to see his team start knocking guys home.

“I thought we played better baseball today than we did our first game even though we won,” Thompson said. “I told the boys today that I thought we played decent baseball, but we’re not into moral victories. We still gave up an unearned run and left 10 guys on base today. We did put the ball in play, give them credit, they made plays in the field, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to get the hits with guys in scoring position. Overall I’m pleased with our effort. It was a pretty clean game and I also thought Diesel Williams pitched a very good ball game today.”

The Panthers are set to face Mathews on Tuesday.

Assuming weather cooperates, Harding has a tough slate ahead. Today, the Raiders are set to have a home game against Jefferson and then a trip to Canton McKinley on Saturday.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.


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