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Owen looks to tighten grip on conference lead

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A season that started with three straight losses for the Owen Warhorses baseball team looks to have a drastically different finish.

The Warhorses won five of six games through the month of April and climbed to the lead in the Western Highlands Conference. After rains washed away an April 28 game at Polk and threatened the team's May 1 game against Hendersonville (results not available as of deadline), Owen held its conference destiny in its own hands.

The first half of the season was up and down for the Warhorses. After opening the season with a losing streak, Owen finished the month of March just a game under .500. Led by senior Brian Bartlett, who was batting .500 through 17 games and leading the team with 16 RBIs, the Warhorses found their offense.

"We've won more than we lost here lately," said head coach Anthony Lee. The entire lineup is hitting solidly during some games, he said.  "Our strikeouts are down, and we put the ball in play," he said.

That offensive surge allowed Owen to go 4-0 against WHC foes in April, putting the Warhorses in control in their own destiny in the conference. The Warhorses have also kept conference opponents off of the scoreboard, according to Lee.

"We've only given up 25 runs in the conference (as of April 26)," Lee said. "We're the best in the conference in (not) allowing runs. When you hit it pretty good and pitch pretty good then you're going to win ball games."

The Warhorses had won eight of their 10 conference games as of May 1, with two remaining against Polk and Hendersonville. Like Owen, the Mountain Heritage Cougars were 8-2 in the conference, but both of the Cougar losses came at the hands of the Warhorses, giving the latter the top spot in the WHC.

"If we can win our final three games, we're conference champions," Lee said. "They all matter at this point because we have a three-way race at the top."

Madison was 8-3 in the conference as of May 1, with one game remaining against Mountain Heritage on May 2. With three 2-A schools battling for the top two spots, Lee said finishing on top is more important than it seems.

"I told the boys we're either going to be conference champions and make the playoffs, or we're not going to make the playoffs," he said. "It's up to us now."

A make-up date for the April 28 game against Polk had yet to be announced as of press time. The Warhorses are scheduled to play their final regular season game of the season at home on May 3, against East Henderson.

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