Baseball is on the mind of Kentuckians as the University of Kentucky baseball team will host a Regional in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 (also the last time they made the tournament).
However, with all of the (well-deserved) hype around the Bat ‘Cats, some are forgetting the other tournament taking place this week in Lexington. Young stars will look to make history for their schools on the diamond as the 2023 Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Baseball State Tournament began on Thursday. The first round is being held at Counter Clocks Field in Lexington, as Kentucky Proud Park will be booked.
Here at KSR, we’re recapping the matchups where Brady the Intern is on site for this year’s iteration of the playoffs. After a full day of action on Thursday, let’s see what Friday had in store for the Bluegrass.
Whitley County 4, LaRue County 3
Starting the day, Whitley County and LaRue County set the tone for the rest of the squads. Whitley and LaRue spent two hours and 19 minutes battling for a spot in the second round of the state tournament. The game began with Whitley’s starting pitcher Mason Croley going five innings of one-hit baseball, shutting down the Hawks’ offense at every turn. Almost every LaRue batter made weak contact and seemed unsure at the plate, not because they weren’t talented; Croley was just in the zone.
While he was dealing, the Colonels’ offense saw the ball well, combining four runs on four hits. Whitley’s offense started with a RBI single from Ronald Osborne in the second inning. Then, Andrew Stack knocked in a run on a fielder’s choice to second. In the third inning, Hunter Wilson smashed a ball into left field — over the fence, home-run Colonels. Wilson’s dinger was the first of the weekend in the tournament, as the ball barely crept over the left field fence.
However, LaRue County had no intention of giving the second-round spot up easily. Once the 5th inning began, the bats came alive for the Hawks. Four singles in a row for the Hawks in the sixth brought in three runs. The triples brought LaRue County into striking distance entering the final inning. A one-run deficit was nothing compared to how the first few innings went for the boys in blue and white.
When the top of the seventh rolled around, LaRue County’s fans were still riding off of the high of the previous inning. Ryan Hughes then came up big with a one-out double to put a man in scoring position for the Hawks. After another out brought the Hawks to the brink of elimination, Daniel Allen stepped up and roped a ball to center field. Pinch runner Lucas Evans rounded third and looked to score the game-tying run and complete the comeback. However, center fielder Shane Parker made a Ken Griffey Jr.-like throw to the plate to nail the runner… ballgame.
Whitley County holds on in an absolute classic at Counter Clocks Field.
South Warren 4, Breathitt County 3
After watching this South Warren-Breathitt County matchup after the first game, I have a question. Are we sure June didn’t turn into October overnight? South Warren and Breathitt County played in another classic baseball game to add to the drama of this weekend. To say the theater of this game was crazy would be an understatement. The ESPN win percentage calculator on this matchup would read more like a vital sign monitor.
Breathitt County started off hot with three hits and two runs in the first inning. One run came from a booming triple from Andrew Combs. This set the tone for the Bobcats’ offense as they added another run in the second inning as center fielder Dillon Stacy scored on an error. However, after the third inning, the Bobcats were unable to get another hit for the rest of the contest. Ethan Reynolds entered the game in the second inning for South Warren and provided four innings of no-hit work.
While Reynolds was shoving for the Spartans, the bats got to work on the Bobcats’ pitching staff. However, even though the Spartans were able to get hits and move runners around, they could not capitalize. South Warren left eight men on base from the first through the sixth inning. Not exactly a recipe for success. When push came to shove and the cards were on the table, the Spartans showed up like they have done all year.
To lead off the second inning, South Warren relied upon Camden Page, an eighth grader. When I was in eighth grade, the bat was taller than me, but not for Page. He strapped on his big boy boots and slapped a double to start the inning. Page’s knock was followed by Sisson and Croghan getting on base to load them up for Reynolds. He then flew out for a sacrifice fly to score Page. Griffin Rardin then stepped up and hit a single, which scored a runner while one was (controversially) held at third. A single from Eli Capps brought the tying run home and Milby to the plate. However, with it being first and third, South Warren ran a designed play, take a look.
A balk gave South Warren the scoring run, as they took a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh. Breathitt was able to hold the damage there, but it seemed to be too little too late. South Warren’s Bradley Lewis closed the game out — South Warren wins. They now have evaded elimination for the millionth time, and look to continue their story against Whitley County on Saturday.
Harrison County 2, Pikeville 1
Harrison County and Pikeville battled in a classic pitching duel on Friday night. The Thorobreds and Panthers fought for the chance to advance in the state tournament, and both squads fought hard. However, the Harrison County Thorobreds came out on top 2-1, as both teams pitched and defended very well. Harrison’s Mac Whitaker and Pikeville’s Shane Simpkins both coached their teams to great seasons and entered the game with hopes of continuing their good fortunes in postseason play.
Corey Vaughn went all seven innings on the mound for Harrison County, only allowing one run (not earned) on eight hits and six strikeouts. Vaughn brought his best stuff and confused the Pikeville hitters for the entire matchup. On the other hand, Harrison County’s defense was stellar throughout the whole game, primarily shortstop Elijah Harris. Harris finished with one putout and four assists with no errors. Harris also went 1-3 with a walk and a run scored. Issac Duty was on the bump for Pikeville, and he pitched a great game, with only one earned run and six hits allowed with seven strikeouts.
Harrison County’s offensive production came in the fourth and fifth inning. Corey Vaughn singled and later scored on an error, and Elijah Harris scored on a sacrifice in the fifth inning. This was enough for the Thorobreds to hang on as they will play Henderson County on Saturday night.
Henderson County 6, Pulaski County 1
Henderson County sent a message to all of the winners of the previous seven games, don’t forget about the Colonels. With an 18-17 record, little was said about Henderson County entering the tournament. Nobody picked them to advance far in the field (hand up, neither did). However, the Colonels’ bats were lighting up the Lexington night sky on Friday night. Especially second baseman Brennan Cates’ bat, who a ball fly with a grand slam. PBR Kentucky got a great angle of this moonshot.
After Cates hit the ball into the stratosphere in the third inning, Colonel Nation didn’t have much to worry about. Dax Wilson and Bryce Haden both scored on a single from Alec Satterfield in the fourth inning, which sent Henderson County into cruise control. Henderson’s Dru Meadows pitched a stellar complete game, giving up one run on two hits. Pulaski County’s lone run came on a sacrifice as Wessen Falin brought in Marshall Lively.
Henderson County will have its eyes set on Saturday’s matchup with Harrison County. The Colonels should have an advantage since they only had to use Meadows in the contest. With many close games thus far in the tournament, Henderson should have a leg up on the competition. As we all know, pitching depth is huge when teams look to make a deep postseason run.
Saturday’s quarterfinals schedule (@ Counter Clocks Field)
10:00 AM | Eastern vs. Shelby County
1:30 PM | Lexington Catholic vs. Apollo
5:00 PM | Harrison County vs. Henderson County
8:30 PM | Whitley County vs. South Warren