Rebels finding ways to win the close ones

Boyle County has been searching for ways to win the close ones, and maybe the Rebels are starting to find some answers.

The Boyle baseball team’s offense has been all over the place this season, scoring runs in bunches in some games and struggling in others.

Most of the Rebels’ wins haven’t been close, and most of their losses have been low-scoring games. They started to reverse that trend this week, however, winning a one-run game and a two-run game on consecutive nights to snap a four-game losing streak that included three losses by two runs or less.

Boyle defeated Mercer County 4-3 on Tuesday on a walk-off single by Kamron Myers, then beat Campbellsville 5-3 in the opener of a two-game, home-and-home series to take a 13-11 record into the series finale Thursday night at Boyle.

Prior to those wins, the Rebels had been winning on the days when they looked like one of the best offensive teams in the state — which they are — and losing on days when they were easier outs, and their coach attributed that to differing approaches at the plate in different situations.

“We just have to have better at-bats,” Boyle coach Adam Blair said.

Boyle scored at least nine runs in 10 of its first twelve victories. All of those wins had been by at least three runs, and just over half  — seven — had been by at least seven runs.

On the other side of the ledger, six of the Rebels’ 11 defeats have been by three runs or less, and they haven’t lost a game by more than five runs and have scored more than five runs in a loss only twice.

“When we get ahead it’s easy to hit, it’s easy to think because we’re relaxed and we’re loose and if we mess up it’s fine. When things are on the line, that’s when we’re getting tight,” Blair said. “And we just need to stay loose and have fun and play, because when we’re tight we’re taking bad swings or we’re looking at strikes, and we’re not getting those big hits when we need them.”

The Rebels can swing for the fences with the best of them, and that has played a large part in their offensive success this season.

Through 23 games, Boyle had 20 home runs, the third-highest total in the state this season. It ranked in the lower part of the top 25 in the state in doubles (39), hits (198), also has 39 doubles to rank 22nd in the state in that category and rank in the lower part of the top 25 in hits (193) and just outside the top 25 in batting average (.310) and runs (178).

Myers hit two home runs and Luke Gaffney hit his team-high seventh homer for Boyle on Saturday in a 9-8 loss at Russell County. In their previous game, the Rebels were homerless in a 4-3 loss to Somerset.

Blair said longballs have been an asset for the Rebels, but not one they should rely on.

“That’s kind of what we do sometimes, and I told them we’ve got to get bunts down, we’ve got to have a better two-strike approach, we’ve got to put the ball in play, hit the ball to the opposite side of the field, get guys in scoring position,” he said. “I said, ‘We’ve just got to be better situational hitters, not rely on the power all the time.’”

Blair said becoming better batters in two-strike counts could help the Rebels win more close games.

“We’ve seen some guys swing with two strikes, and it looks like they have zero strikes. That’s got to change, because against good programs, good teams, good pitchers, sometimes you’ve just got to put the ball in play and hope they mess up,” he said.

The good news is that there is plenty of evidence of offense. Fourteen runs against Rockcastle County, Southwestern and East Jessamine, 15 against Marion County, 16 against LaRue County. And three more games in which Boyle has scored in double digits.

Blair said a better approach in practice will lead to better consistency in games.

“We’ve got to be more focused when we’re working on things … in practice, not just trying to hit balls to the fence and working on situational things,” he said. “It’s not always about how far you can hit it, it’s about hitting it to the right spots, hitting it where it’s pitched.

“We’ve talked about seeing more pitches, getting more walks and cutting down on the strikeouts, of course.”

The Rebels are still relatively inexperienced, with its seniors getting their first chance to play regularly after being behind older players and with a junior, four sophomores and a freshman in its lineup.

“We’re younger than we seem at times,” Blair said. “We’re working through that, and I think we’re growing.”

And Blair hasn’t hesitated to match his hitters against good pitchers. After Boyle outscored Bethlehem, Rockcastle, Southwestern and East Jessamine 55-14 during a recent four-game winning streak, he added a game against Madison Central to the schedule last week and the Rebels outhit the Indians 5-4 in a 7-2 loss.

“I wanted our guys to be challenged after winning four games big, to play a team that’s going to prepare us … to face some of this type of pitching that we’re going to face possibly (in the postseason), because when that time comes you’re going to see everybody’s No. 1,” he said.

Preparing for the postseason is the priority for Boyle’s first-year coach, and he said the work has been going well so far.

“It’s been a fun year, and hopefully we’ll go on a big run towards the end,” Blair said.