And this year, he added, has made it all worthwhile.
Trying to mold a team from a collection of players from multiple schools and getting them to buy into a new way of doing things is no small task, so Cochran and his staff were admittedly hard on their first team. They wanted the new Hough way to be crystal clear, so they — his word — "micromanaged" the team.
"Last year was probably not as fun for them from that perspective," said Cochran.
This season, though, with a group of nine seniors Cochran holds in high regard, the Huskies have been freed up to play the game, something that has been evident with the team's aggressiveness on the base paths.
"This year, it's been fun to sit back and let them play the game and not manage every aspect," said Cochran.
It's paid off. The Huskies, who won four league games last year and missed the state playoffs, won the I-Meck Conference tournament this month and had three playoff wins to their credit entering this week's matchup with I-Meck foe Mallard Creek. The teams were to square off Tuesday, but the game was postponed because of thunderstorms until Wednesday, after this edition's press time.
Following a first-round 2-1 win over Porter Ridge on May 11, Hough beat I-Meck opponent Mooresville May 16 for the third time in four meetings, winning 2-1 after that game, too, was delayed a day by storms. Then, last Friday night, the Huskies went on the road to win their fourth straight game by a one-run margin, defeating perennial power South Caldwell (24-3) by a 3-2 score in the third round.
"It was a good experience for our guys, first and foremost," said Cochran, whose team improved to 20-10. "It was a packed house, and their fans were loud. For our program, it does nothing but set the bar for us."
Will Champion was 3-for-3 at the plate and drove in the winning run for the Huskies in the top of the sixth. He also prevented a South Caldwell home run by reaching above the center field fence to catch a potential home run early on.
"For a high school kid to make that play, that's big," said Cochran.
Pierce Suttles and Nick Daddio drove in Hough's other runs, and Brandon Gragilla threw a complete game for the Huskies.
Against Mooresville, Hough broke open a scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth when A.J. Girting ripped a ball into right field, allowing Johnny Piedmonte to score. Girting later scored on a wild pitch. Mooresville (16-8) loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, but managed to score just one run before Gragilla came on and retired the side in order in both the sixth and seventh.