Girls Basketball

O’Fallon’s Harrison homers again as Panthers roll past Columbia

While he didn’t have time to write his order down on the baseball, O’Fallon junior Bradley Harrison ripped a home run Tuesday that didn’t come to rest until rolling into the parking lot at the Dairy Queen across the street from Blazier Field.

It was the third home run in four games for Harrison, whose solo blast highlighted O’Fallon’s 9-2 baseball win over the Columbia Eagles. He also has piled up eight RBIs on the young season and is is hitting .500 (6-for-12).

“This offseason I really hit the weight room a lot and I’m seeing the ball well,” said Harrison, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit who had a home run, a single and two walks while scoring four times in four plate appearances. “It felt good; it’s one of those great feelings when it hits the bat and you know it’s coming off hard.”

O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said Harrison isn’t doing much different than the past two years, but his bat is definitely speaking a little louder this spring.

“He hasn’t changed a thing other than just continuing to hit the weights,” Portz said. “He’s really working hard in the weight room, there’s no doubt about that, but the more knowledgeable he gets and the better at-bats he’s able to take ... right now the game’s just really starting to slow down for him.”

O’Fallon (3-1) jumped on Columbia (2-1) for five runs in the first and never looked back.

Jackson Penrod had a two-run double in the first and three RBIs for O’Fallon while Kyle Van Bevern drove in two runs.

“That was one thing that we really tried to focus on today was coming out a little more aggressive offensively,” Portz said. “That’s one thing that we hadn’t done in the past week and I feel like our kids did that. They came out and were aggressive with the sticks early and I thought they competed really well.”

Columbia starter J.T. Broshears had control problems early and it helped lead to a five-run first inning for O’Fallon. Just one batter into the game, a 30-minute lightning delay also stretched things out a bit.

After a hit batter and two walks loaded the bases, Kyle VanBevern drove in a run and Penrod followed with a two-run double to right that made it 3-0. An RBI groundout by Camden Bauer and RBI single by Connor Breyer pushed the Panthers’ lead to 5-0.

“I think J.T. had a little bit of nerves coming out,” Columbia coach Keith Jany said. “I know we hit the first guy and walked the next two, so you start out with bases loaded and nobody out and you put yourself in a bad spot against anybody, much less a team like O’Fallon.”

Van Bevern added an RBI single in the second and O’Fallon tacked on two more runs in the fourth against reliever Zach Mathews.

O’Fallon starter Grant Robison tossed four shutout innings, allowing five hits.

“We’re looking for that guy to step up and be a No. 3 starter for us and Grant got the opportunity tonight,” Portz said. “He was able to throw three pitches for strikes tonight and control the game.”

Harrison drove a fastball deep over the fence in right leading off the sixth.

“He’s got that ability as a hitter,” Portz said. “He comes to the park every day with a great attitude and a desire to get better. He’s just a very level-headed player. When you take that approach every day to the game you’re going to have a lot of success. He’s off to a hot start but you wouldn’t know it.”

A bright spot for Columbia offensively was first baseman Brian Dougherty, who was 3-for-3. Blake Crawford accounted for the only runs on a two-run homer in the sixth for the Eagles.

“That’s great to see a guy like (Dougherty) do well, especially have a day like today,” Jany said. “He didn’t make the team as a freshman and was very limited on playing time last year. He kept working hard and right now he’s been one of our most consistent hitters.

“Hopefully we can expect some nice things from him this year.”