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JCHS improves performance but still loses 3-7 on the road

Following two near shutouts earlier in the week, the Longhorns were able to bounce back slightly on the road against Sullivan East last Friday. Senior Sam Thomas had an extremely strong performance pitching for more than four innings before turning it over to fellow senior Jake Sutherland. Coupled with some solid fielding Johnson County held East to just one run through the first three innings and was eagerly hoping for their first conference win of the season.
A series of simple errors at the bottom of the third proved very costly, allowing the Patriots to reach home four times in a row after loading up the bases. Even so, the Longhorns were still looking to regain the early foothold they earned when Nick Whitener rounded the bases in the first, getting on with a walk and then taking advantage of a Sullivan East fielding error. By that point Johnson County already had two outs but were still able to load the bases before getting the third.
Had one of those first two batters been a little more successful the Longhorns might have had a few more runners cross home plate, but as Head Coach Pete Pavusek explained consistency has always been one of the biggest problems with a young team.  “This is what you get when you’re not consistent,” Pavusek said. “When we’re trying to get better you get one inning that’s really great and then you have a let down the next inning. We’re getting better but on the negative that’s what kind of innings you have while you’re trying. There were a lot of missed opportunities. If we make a play here and there in the field and that’s a 3-1 ball game going into the seventh.”
The third inning slip up aside, Pavusek was keen to praise the Longhorn’s pitching staff and especially Sam Thomas who threw out 47 strikes with three strikeouts. “We’ve just got to compete,” Pavusek said. “Keep getting better. This is a big improvement from Tuesday. Our pitching was really good. I thought Sam probably had the best start of his high school career. Jake Sutherland is doing really well, and has a nice curve ball all of a sudden. Pitching is going to be fine but we can’t have those mental letdowns in the field. The guys that are coming off the bench have to be mentally ready, mentally prepared. This is high school varsity baseball. You have to have your head in the ball game and be ready to go. That’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
The Longhorns had another opportunity to score in the fourth when Nathaniel Graybeal got on base with a walk and advanced to second thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Jose Guzman. Graybeal eventually stole home, while Adam Worley took third after starting on a walk, but once again the Longhorns missed a big opportunity with two quick outs from the top of the lineup.
As much as bunting can be beneficial, Coach Pavusek pointed out that it must be used wisely or can very costly. “We had the bunt on but we bunt bad pitches,” Pavusek said. “I felt like we should have pulled off on the bunt when it’s a high pitch. When it’s a suicide squeeze, yeah you have to get the ball down but use the opportunity to let a ball that’s high go and next thing you know you’re up in the count. The kid was struggling from the stretch and if we put a few runners on who knows what happens.”
Graybeal’s run saw the Longhorns trailing 2-5 in the third and even with the Patriots last two runs in the fifth there was still time to see a turnaround. By the sixth Johnson County once again had multiple runners on base and could have made a final sweep to take the win. However, that did not happen and even though Jose Guzman did manage to complete his run on a Patriot error, he was the last Johnson County runner to reach home plate.
A 3-7 loss is certainly not where the Longhorns want to be, but even Pavusek had to admit it was a much better showing than some of the games that have been played at this early stage. “We feel better about ourselves I guess,” said Pavusek grudgingly, “but not enough to be satisfied with it. It’s better than Tuesday and better than Monday. We had a chance to win that ball game, but I don’t want to feel like ‘well we made some improvements’ when I feel like we should have won that ballgame.”