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High school baseball: Null, Sissonville record rare victory over Catholic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whether it was good timing, good baseball or a combination of the two, Tuesday night was a big night for the Sissonville program.

That's because the Indians knocked off powerhouse Charleston Catholic 6-4 at home, defeating the Irish for the first time in at least five seasons.

"It's been a few years, probably since '08 maybe," Sissonville coach Kenny Harper said of the last time the Indians beat the Irish. "It's been a while. It's a good win. I like beating them. They are a good ball team. They always are."

"It was the first time I've beat them," Sissonville senior Zach Null said. "It feels really good. I asked coach if it was the first time we have beat them. It feels really good because they always are a powerhouse."

While the Indians (2-2) were playing their fourth game of the year, it was just the season opener for Charleston Catholic (0-1).

Also, three of the Irish's top players in shortstop Kiefer Hovorka, first baseman Nelson McKown, and centerfielder Andy Hoyer are just now joining the baseball team after making it all the way to Class A state championship game in basketball before falling to Tug Valley last Saturday.

"We have only practiced outside maybe four times and had one scrimmage," Catholic coach Bill Mehle said. "It's great to get out and play the game. Obviously, we have a lot of rust with the first game. We saw some things that we trust we will not be seeing in the middle of the season.

"We have a long way to go. We had a few guys just a couple days ago playing for the state championship. They got their practices in baseball-wise but there is only so much you can do when you are making a run at the state title.

Still though, it was a huge victory for Sissonville in knocking off a Catholic team that lost in the semifinals of the state tournament last season and in the championship game the year before, and return a lot of talent.

The win was even more impressive in the fact that the Indians are a youthful team that starts four freshmen in Jacob Fisher, Josh Landis, Austin Burford and Ethan Lauchart.

Three of the four occupy some of the most important positions on the field with Fisher and Landis starting up the middle on the infield at shortstop and second base, respectively. Burford is starting centerfielder, while Lauchart is the designated hitter.

Fisher and Landis, the Indians No. 1 and 3 hitters, respectively, each had a pair of hits against Catholic, while Burford reached base twice as well.

"We have a good bunch of baseball kids up from the middle school program," Harper said.

"That's a big help. They all want to win, and know how to win. It's great. Our guys are starting to get things going. It's a long season still yet."

Null, who reached base in each of his four plate appearances, is one of the few upperclassmen on the team and is Sissonville's top pitcher. The senior got the call against Catholic and was able to help guide the Indians to the big victory, picking up the win on the mound.

After a shaky first inning for Null that saw him give up three runs, including three hits, a walk and an error by the Sissonville defense, he didn't allow another run the rest of the way in five innings of work.

"I was nervous especially against them because I had never beat them," Null said. "I was just trying to throw it too hard at the beginning. Finally I settled down and hit my spots. They (Sissonville defense) were making plays for me. It felt good."


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