Outside the Tribe: BHS Baseball Team in the Business of Hitting and Business is Good

By Chris Johnson on June 05, 2021 from Outside the Tribe via Connect-Bridgeport.com

There is a new business in town.
 
I’m not sure if it is called The Bridgeport Lumber Company or The Bridgeport Rake Factory, maybe the Johnson Avenue Hit Parade.
 
But make no mistake about it, the Bridgeport High School baseball team is in the business of hitting and business is good.
 
I’ve seen a lot of good BHS baseball teams through the years and every one of them was good with the bats in their hands. But that wasn’t necessarily the first thing you thought of with those teams.
 
As far back as I can recall, Teams coached by Robert Shields have been known for having good hitters, good pitching, good defense, good fundamentals on the basepaths and in the field. Good at every aspect of the game but none of those aspects commanded more attention than any of the others.
 
Balance has been the crucial ingredient during Shields’ tenure. Balance has been the key ingredient for a program that is 210-41 since 2014 with six consecutive state titles. Balance will be needed if the Tribe want to make it seven in a row and capture the program’s ninth overall championship and first at the Class AAA level.
 
That balance is there for the 2021 Indians who are 27-3 entering today’s Class AAA Region I, Section 2 championship game. However, what this year’s team is doing on offense has overshadowed how good the pitching has been and how good the defense has been.
 
The offensive production has been downright staggering and for those who like to debate such things as “What year’s team is the best offensive team in school history?” this year’s squad has to be in the discussion and may be the frontrunner before any discussing actually begins.
 
In 30 games thus far prior to Saturday's 11-3 victory in the sectional title game against University, the Indians had scored 371 runs, an average of 12.4 per game. Opponents have scored 73 runs against the Tribe, an average of 2.4 runs per game. The Tribe’s average score (12.4 to 2.4) invokes the mercy rule.
 
The 382 runs thus far are more than any of the Class AA state title teams scored.
 
The usual Top 5 in the Bridgeport batting lineup (Cam Cole, Frank Why, Ryan Goff, Nate Paulsen, J.D. Love) are a combined 145-for-341 (.425 average) with 27 doubles, 10 triples, nine home runs and 152 RBIs.
 
But what sets this year’s lineup apart is there is not an easy out in any of the nine spots. In fact, the usual No. 9 hitter, Aiden Paulsen is hitting .429 with three homers and 27 RBIs.
 
Thirteen different players have scored double-digit runs this season and six have scored at least 20 runs. Cole and Nate Paulsen lead the way with 42 apiece.
 
Eleven different players have double-digit hits with six having at least 20. Nate Paulsen leads with 38.
 
Twelve different players have driven in at least 10 runs with six having at least 20. Nate Paulsen leads with 47.
 
As a team the Indians have 90 extra-base hits and have stolen 94 bases. Fifteen of the 21 players who have at least one at-bat, have drawn more walks than struck out.
 
Goff recently told me that he thought a positive that came out of last year’s season being wiped out because of COVID and the guidelines and restrictions that ensued was that he and his teammates were able to spend a whole of time getting stronger and hitting in the cages and that’s a factor for this year’s offensive onslaught.
 
In last Wednesday’s 13-6 win against University that put the Indians in the championship round of the sectional tournament, Love had a pair of clutch hits, each driving in a pair of runs. It was the second hit that really stood out.
 
He had just ripped a foul ball to left that missed being a three-run homer by maybe 10 feet. On the very next pitched he went to other way, lining a two-run single to right.
 
It was the perfect example of a lineup that 1-9 can hit with power and can hit to all fields.
 
The pitching they face is only going to get tougher from here on out assuming they get out of the section, win the region and make it back to the state tournament.
 
Of their three losses, two of them – a 4-1 loss to Morgantown in the first game of the season and a 6-1 loss to Jefferson on May 15 – are against teams they could possibly face in the postseason that have already proven that as potent as the Bridgeport offense is, it is possible to contain it.
 
The Mohigans are the top seed in Class AAA Region I. So with BHS being the second seed, the best two out three regional would be played at Morgantown then Bridgeport then back to Morgantown if a Game 3 is necessary.
 
The point is, every possible remaining team has top-notch pitching, Bridgeport included.
 
Of the four BHS pitchers with the most innings logged, Ben McDougal is currently 6-0 with a 0.80 ERA. Austin Mann is 5-0 with a 0.76 ERA. Chris Harbert is 5-2 with a 2.00 ERA and Max Harbert is 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA.
 
I’m a firm believer that you must have great starting pitching to win a state title. You also have to make plays in the field.
 
But you also have to hit the ball and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school baseball team hit the ball the way the 2021 Indians do. And that’s a heck of a tool to have in the belt this time of year.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo is of Aiden Paulsen, second one features Goff, third is of Cole and bottom one is of Nate Paulsen. Photos courtesy of www.benqueenphotography.com
 
 



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