New Albany picked up a big division win over Lafayette on Tuesday, and did so without of one of its best players.
With senior catcher Riley Alef out with the flu, the Bulldogs posted 16 hits in the 12-3 win over the Commodores to improve to 10-3 on the year.
“Anytime you win a division game, it’s good. We played very well, and we got the lead early and gave up some runs later that kept us from putting this away in five innings, but needless to say, I’m proud of our effort,” coach John Walker said.
“That’s a quality ball club, and anytime you get 16 hits, no matter who you’re playing, you’re doing something right offensively. This was very good coming off of our last game, where we did not have a good offensive showing.”
Falling to East Union in last week’s Union County Tournament, New Albany had only three hits in the 6-5 loss, but bounced back with five players finishing with multiple hits, led by three hits from Ben Foster and Easton Hall.
New Albany scored its first runs in the second inning, loading the bases for a two-run single by Foster. That was later followed by an eight-run third inning that saw seven ‘Dawgs drive in runs off hits.
Jonah Zahller and Mason Maxey each had a double in the inning, and Maxey later had a two-out triple in the fifth, leading to New Albany’s 11th run in the fifth. The senior also had the win on the mound, allowing the three runs off four hits with five strikeouts.
Lafayette recorded its first hit off of Maxey in the fourth, which brought in the ‘Dores first run. Eli Murphree and Tyler Mize brought in runs off singles, with Mize finishing with two hits.
Foster, Hall, Maxey, Brandon Montgomery and Grant Hogue finished with multiple hits for the Bulldogs in the win.
The absence of Alef behind the plate for New Albany placed senior Easton Hall in his place and freshman Jake McDonald at first; a move familiar for the Bulldogs when Alef is on the mound. Walker was most impressed for how his team handled the change in a division game.
“Obviously, we’re not a better team without him (Alef). He makes us better, and if there are 12 to 15 players in the state that are better than him, I haven’t seen them,” Walker said. “He’s very important to this team, and it’s good that these guys realize the type of team we have surrounding him. Not having him hurts us, but tonight, guys have stepped up for Riley, and Easton Hall continues to do a fantastic job on back up duty behind the plate.”
The Bulldogs hope to have Alef back by the end of the week when New Albany travels to Lafayette for the rematch, but the senior’s presence on the mound will not be seen again this year. Walker also learned of a rotator cup injury to Alef, which will not allow him to pitch the remainder of the season. Last week, Alef struck out five and allowed three hits against Center Hill and struck out three against East Union.
“That’s going to cut into us a little bit, but we have guys that can pitch and that can step up and get the job done,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said this isn’t going to hurt us, but most importantly for us is to get him back behind the plate and in the batting lineup for us.”
The Bulldogs will travel to Lafayette on Friday and play at Ripley and Booneville on Saturday before hosting North Pontotoc next Tuesday.