PORTER TOWNSHIP | Strikeouts are cool, but Joe Dougherty has realized you don't have to rack up a string of Ks to win a game.
"I always wanted to strike everybody out, overpower everybody," the Morgan Township junior said. "Now I don't rely on strikeouts as much at all. I trust my defense a lot. They've helped me out a lot. I just try to keep it down, let (batters) hit the ball, and they get them out."
That was the theme Wednesday at Boone Grove. Dougherty (7-2) fanned just four, but walked none, allowed only four hits and induced nine ground balls in the Cherokees' 6-1 Porter County Conference tournament win over the Wolves.
"I made a few mistakes, but it's definitely one of my best games," Dougherty said.
"Joe's always had the talent. Something's just clicked this year. He's getting pretty nasty," Morgan coach Jason Dorshorst said. "He's throwing strikes. He's working it in and out. He's really coming together."
A harmless two-out error in the seventh was the only miscue of the game for Morgan (18-4).
"Years past, we didn't play defense. This year, we are," Dorshorst said. "Joe doesn't have to get a ton of strikeouts. It's ground ball after ground ball. We're picking it up and throwing them out. That's the difference."
Boone (11-11-1) led 1-0 in the fourth when the game fell apart for Dean Hill. Jacob Gourley's two-out single started a string of five hits. Dougherty's double to right center tied it at 1 and Adam Rettinger flared a two-run single to left to put Morgan in front.
"We scored eight with two outs the other day against Hebron," Dorshorst said. "That's just a testament to the kids' at-bats. They're not trying to do too much. They're just putting the ball in play."
The Wolves never threatened after Jon Hogg's RBI single in the third.
"We've got no idea at the plate," Boone coach Rollie Thill said. "We try to swing big and hit it hard every time. You saw what Morgan did. They were just touching it. They make you make plays. They don't strike out. Anything remotely close to the plate, they're hitting it. Our guys won't do that and I don't know why."