Cook anchors down to lead Apollo past Daviess County; records 300th strikeout

May 21, 2024 | 12:05 am

Updated May 21, 2024 | 2:08 am

Apollo’s Noah Cook led the Eagles defense in holding back Daviess County for a 7-1 win. On his way to the win Cook recorded his 300th strikeout to become 2nd all-time in strikeouts for Apollo.

Daviess County’s Lucas Ward advanced to third for a chance to take an early lead in the opening inning, but the score would remain at 0-0 going into the second. The top of the second inning saw Brett Poole single on a ground ball before Cameron Rickard grounded out to help him reach second. After Sean Page was hit by a pitch, Carter Nichols hit an RBI single to allow Poole to score and give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. 

The Eagles got that run back shortly after as Brock Burger was walked to first and managed to reach second on a passed ball. Garrett Lanham sacrificed to get Burger to third before Grayson Smith’s fly out to let Burger cross home and tie the game. 

Apollo then had a 3-run performance in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead. It began with Sam Holder being walked and Easton Blandford hitting a line drive single to put runners on first and second. Will Strode then hit a bomb out to left field that scored both Holder and Blandford. After Ty Lillpop grounded out to get Strode to third, Michael Chaney hit a sacrifice fly out to right field to run Strode in and put the score at 4-1 in favor of AHS. Burger was next up at bat and was walked, but Logan Mewes struck out Lanham to close the inning. 

The Panthers regained their footing on defense with 3 consecutive fly outs to hold Apollo in the fifth inning. The sixth inning saw DC allow just one hit while they quickly got 2 outs, but errors paved the way for Apollo to run away with the lead. After a balk by Rickard moved runners to second third, Lanham stepped up and hit a ground ball towards the shortstop. A misplaced throw to first was the green light for Lillpop and Burger who both crossed home plate to put the score at 6-1. Lanham reached third on a passed ball before Grayson Smith hit a hard ground ball to run Lanham in. 

The Eagles took advantage of errors by DC to earn runs, and this has been at the core of what head coach Brandon Dennis has been trying to get across to his team this season. Denis said that he made it a point of emphasis that hits don’t win games, runs do. 

“We’re not going to out-hit a lot of teams, but we’ve finally got them to buy into the idea that hits don’t win games,” he said. “We’ve had three games in the last couple weeks where we’ve been out-hit and we’ve outscored the team by 7, 8 or 9 runs just because we’ve been manufacturing big hits in big spots. It’s kind of who we are.”

The Panthers had the final inning to make a comeback, but Cook put heavy pressure on them with 2 quick strikeouts to start the inning. Lucas Ward kept a sharp eye to earn a walk to first, but the game came to a close after Mewes grounded out at first. Cook finished the game with 8 strikeouts and allowed 3 hits, and he recorded his 300th strikeout during the game to become second in all-time strikeouts for the team. Dennis praised Cook on the mound as he had a rough start but settled in to put in a solid performance. 

“The biggest thing was that we always expect Noah to be perfect,” he said. “He’s been perfect all year long, and he had to fight his way through there a little bit. We knew they were going to give us the best punch they could give us, but he settled in, did a good job pitching and gave us a chance to win. Most teams don’t get much when he settles in.”

Apollo not only secured their spot in the district final, but they also clinched Dennis’s 250th career win. Dennis was gifted a special ball by his team and coaches after the game to celebrate the occasion. Winning the first round of district was a mental battle for his players as he tried to not let the praise get to their heads. Dennis said the district is close enough that no matter who you play, you have to remain focused. 

“The toughest job we’ve had in the last four or five days is making these guys understand that everywhere we go in the community, people will tell you how good you are,” he said. “They’ll tell you, ‘Good luck, but you guys don’t need it.’ You always need it. It doesn’t matter in this district who you play. They had us on the ropes there for a couple innings. If they had another run or two and Cookie doesn’t settle in there, then you’ve got some real pressure there to get something done. 

“It can happen to anyone in the district at any time,” he continued. “We had to spend three or four days just saying, ‘Hey, don’t buy into everyone telling you how great you are. This game is going to be a dogfight,’ and it was. That score is not indicative to how it felt. At least here in the dugout it didn’t, but they did a good job. They came out fighting, and Coach Clay does a good job with them.”

On May 22 Apollo will take on the winner of today’s rivalry matchup of Owensboro and Owensboro Catholic. The Red Devils take on the Aces at 6 p.m. at Daviess County High School.

May 21, 2024 | 12:05 am

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