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McCartney helps Hamilton baseball team sweep O'Bannon

 

Adam Minichino

 

HAMILTON -- Kevin McCartney doesn''t do always do things according to plan. 

 

But the Hamilton High School right fielder showed Saturday afternoon that as much as he likes to take his hacks at the plate he can show a little restraint. 

 

McCartney''s leadoff walk in the bottom of the first inning set the tone for another productive day and helped Hamilton beat O''Bannon 12-2 in five innings to help it sweep the first-round Class 2A state playoff series. 

 

Hamilton (19-5), which beat O''Bannon 15-3 on Friday night, will face East Union in the second round. Game one of that series will be Thursday night in Hamilton. 

 

McCartney, who plays wide receiver on the school''s football team, went 2-for-2 with three stolen bases and three runs scored. His exploits were typical of a speed tablesetter who can make things happen on the bases. 

 

"I am real fast, so I am supposed to hit groundballs and beat them out," McCartney said. "When I get on base I am supposed to steal second and they get me in." 

 

But McCartney doesn''t do everything like a typical leadoff hitter. He doesn''t force pitchers deep into counts so teammates see a lot of pitches, which is why his first of two walks on the day was unusual. 

 

McCartney said taking four consecutive pitches is about as unusual for him as hitting a home run. He has two over-the-fence home runs and one inside the park this season. 

 

Instead, McCartney goes to the plate swinging. The results have been extremely positive this season, as he is hitting well over .400 and is getting on base so Dylan Earnest, Chase Reeves, Devin Hopper, and the rest of the Lions can knock him in. 

 

If needed, though, McCartney showed in his first at-bat that he can lay off pitches. Granted, he had the take sign on 3-0, but coach Lewis Earnest said McCartney has developed into a fine leadoff hitter, even if he has a different way of doing it. 

 

"He is a threat to get on base at any time. As long as he puts it in play he is a threat," Earnest said. "He definitely a spark because he can fly." 

 

Earnest said McCartney has had only one bad stretch this season. He said McCartney has a tendency to swing at high pitches and to try to emulate Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki''s mannerisms at the plate, but he is learning not to let those habits control him. 

 

"He is a mature player now," Earnest said. "He has such good hands. He doesn''t have to load up. He has power and puts the ball in play." 

 

McCartney said his attitude has improved the past three seasons. As a sophomore, he hit at the bottom of the order and was used to seeing a lot more fastballs. 

 

In addition to adjusting to being a leadoff hitter, McCartney said he is more positive and has learned how not to get down on himself. He said he''s now able to forget a bad at-bat or a mistake behind him so it doesn''t affect his next chance. 

 

An article he read about Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez has helped his mind-set. 

 

"He said you need to play every game like it is your Little League games, have fun, and it is not the end of the world if you get out or mess up," McCartney said. "I was having fun, but not as much. It helped a lot. It made me feel like I was younger."  

 

Austin Earnest, who had a single and two RBIs, pitched a complete game to get the victory. He allowed two hits and single runs in the first and third innings. 

 

Dylan Earnest had two hits, Reeves had three hits, including a double and a triple, and three RBIs for the Lions, who used a six-run second to break the game open. 

 

Despite the lopsided victories to take the series, neither coach Earnest nor McCartney was happy with how the team played. 

 

"We haven''t had the killer instinct we should have," Earnest said. "We have let people hang around, and you can''t do that at this time of the year." 

 

Said McCartney, "I didn''t think that was anywhere close to our best ball. We really haven''t played to our full potential all year, but we usually come together now and start to play good and bring our pitching, hitting, and defense together." 

 

With McCartney at the top of the lineup, the Lions have a great chance of setting the table and making it happen. 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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