HAMILTON, Ill. -- Jordan Tenhouse issued a challenge to the Central baseball team prior to Tuesday afternoon's game against West Hancock.
The Panthers had lost five straight games and seven of eight overall, and the offense had struggled, scoring just eight runs in the last four games.
The team couldn't strike out more than four times, and doing so meant running during Wednesday's practice.
"Today started our new season," Tenhouse said. "We felt like we weren't winning games because we were letting things happen and not making things happen. We're striking out because we think there will be a better pitch instead of just attacking."
Central had better approaches, collecting eight hits and using a five-run fourth inning to beat West Hancock 8-6. However, the Panthers (9-8) had five strikeouts, which means there will be a little bit of running.
"I guess we have to do that so we say what we mean," Tenhouse said. "I felt like our approaches were a lot better, and we put the ball in play. We just needed that win."
The challenge influenced everything.
Central led 1-0 heading to the bottom of the third before West Hancock (5-9) found its rhythm. Josh Ferguson drew a walk against Central pitcher Kollen Hughes, and a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt put runners on the corners. Drew Martens was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Hughes seemed on the verge of getting out of the jam when Logan Rockhold lined into a double play at shortstop, but Ferguson scored on a passed ball before Peyton Dooley singled. Korey VanFleet walked to load the bases, and Vance Cameron hit a pop fly to shallow right field that wasn't caught and two runs scored for a 3-1 lead.
The advantage didn't last.
Central's Eric Jones trimmed the deficit to one on a groundout before Connor Bross tied the game with a single through the left side. After a walk, Peyton Clampitt singled to left to score Bross and Bryce Long for a 5-3 lead. Hughes helped himself with an RBI single to make it 6-3 by the inning's end.
"We kind of gifted them with that," West Hancock coach Luke Hackett said. "Ideally, you want to come out and get a zero and keep building on that. We didn't do that."
It rejuvenated Hughes on the bump.
"That made me really confident to have the lead all of a sudden," Hughes said. "You have a lot more to work with and throw what you want. There's a little room for error."
Hughes gave up five runs on five hits while striking out two and walking four across six innings. Peyton Clampitt threw the seventh inning, allowing one run before stranding the tying run on base with a groundout.
Still, Hughes knows his strikeout in the seventh inning is the reason why Central will run Wednesday.
"That was bad baseball on my part," Hughes said. "I thought it was outside, and it was a good pitch. I should have swung as soon as I saw it. But overall, I thought we hit a lot better today. We were a lot more aggressive."
Central 8, West Hancock 6
Central 100 502 0--8 8 4
West Hancock 003 011 1--6 5 3
Hughes, Clampitt (7) and Long; Martens, Little (4), Rockhold (6) and VanFleet. WP--Hughes. LP--Martens.