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 begins on Thursday, June 1. The first round will be held at Counter Clocks Field in Lexington, as Kentucky Proud Park will be booked.
Here at KSR, we’ll break down the matchups where Brady the Intern will be on site for this year’s iteration of the playoffs. We’ve already taken a closer look at the matchups set for Thursday. Now, we’ll check out the other side of the bracket with Friday’s first-round matchups.
Whitley County vs. LaRue County | 10:00 AM
Throughout the season, Whitley County has proven to be one of the most consistent teams in the state. Led by head coach Jeremy Shope, the Colonels ended the year with an unbelievable 35-4 record. Safe to say that Shope has created a culture of winning within the 50th District. Whitley County was ranked No. 8 in the latest Prep Baseball Report rankings.
Since taking over in 2018, Shope has led the Colonels to the state tournament twice (two in the last three years) with the last coming trip coming in 2021. This season’s squad is led by a three-headed monster at the plate consisting of Sam Harp, Bryce Anderson, and Ronald Osborne. The trio leads the Colonels in batting average as the team bats an insane .344 from the plate. On the mound, the duo of Grant Zehr and Mason Croley will most likely assume the duties throughout the weekend. With great bats all-around and good pitching, look for Whitley County to make a deep run to Kentucky Proud Park.
On the other hand, LaRue County was not the favorite entering their regional tournament. In fact, some could argue they were the 6-8th best team in the 5th Region. However, when it was time to show up, the Hawks did just that. Kellen Lobb’s squad took down Washington Co., Taylor Co., and Elizabethtown en route to punching their ticket to the state tournament. Sean Rivera and Jaxson Thomas have hit the cover off of the ball this month, with Jameson LaRue providing help at the mound and the plate. Could the Eagles have a Cinderella run to KPP? Come out to Counter Clocks Field to find out.
Breathitt County vs. South Warren | 1:30 PM
South Warren seems to be another squad that has been flying under the radar entering the tournament. With a record of 26-9, the Spartans enjoyed a great year. However, they dropped the district championship to Bowling Green before getting the win back in the regional championships. It seems that a motivated South Warren is very dangerous within the field of teams.
The Spartans spent most of the year playing teams within their region, which could be seen as a disadvantage, playing four more regional games than Breathitt County. Eli Capps and Ethan Reynolds lead the Spartans at the plate, both batting over .350 this season. Jackson Joiner, Dalton Sisson, and Ethan Reynolds have all started games in the postseason. Joiner would be the probable starter with the most rest.
Breathitt County baseball is back in the state tournament for the first time since 1979. The Bobcats will look to make a run for the entire county during their stay in Lexington. Brady Tincher and Andrew Combs are both batting over .400 this season, beyond impressive even at the high school level. Combs can even pitch and may very well be the starter come Friday. Another option on the bump is junior Issac Bellamy, who holds a 1.51 ERA in nine starts and 15 appearances. Many fans will make the nearly hour-and-a-half drive to see their Bobcats look to make history with a win over South Warren.
(The winners of the two matchups will play June 3rd at 8:30 p.m. EST at Counter Clocks Field)
Pikeville vs. Harrison County | 5:00 PM
The Panthers, the pride of Pikeville, will look to represent Eastern Kentucky with a run in the state tournament. Pikeville finished the year with a 24-11 record, good enough for 24th in PBR’s rankings. They will be led into battle by sophomore outfielder Bradyn Hall, who leads the team in hits in the regular season. Hall hit for an impressive .385 AVG but struck out 25 times this season.
This is natural for a young talent, but this tournament will be his chance to introduce himself to the entire state. Issac Duty will look to get the start for the Panthers after sporting a 1.34 ERA in 12 starts and 15 appearances this season.
Harrison County cruised through the 10th Region tournament with wins over Bourbon County, Mason County, and Campbell County. Their path was one of seemingly relative ease, but head coach Mac Whitaker may just have the Thorobreds playing great baseball. Corey Vaughn is one of the best players in the tournament, batting .462 with 44 RBIs and four home runs — video game numbers from the junior. Vaughn also makes a living at the mound, starting 11 games this season with an impressive 2.22 ERA and 89 strikeouts. Cameron White and Elijah Harris have both provided great support with the bats, and both will need to come up big for the Thorobreds this weekend.
Pulaski County vs. Henderson County | 8:30 PM
The Maroons of Pulaski County and the Henderson County Colonels will finish off the first round under the lights in Lexington. With the nightcap comes expectations of a great game and a rowdy crowd. Pulaski and Henderson have both suffered from up-and-down seasons, neither really jumping off the page. However, this sets up for a great matchup that both teams have a good chance of winning. Both teams have a lot to prove to the media, with neither being ranked in the top 25 or even considered for the rankings.
Win games, make noise, and move on, will be the motto for both programs as they look to continue their win streaks. Pulaski County has Bryce Cowell and Mason Acton as their premier players. Bryson Dugger will look to get the nod pitching for the Maroons. Henderson County will be led by Dru Meadows and Cooper Vowels, with Meadows being touted as a shutdown pitcher. He sports a miraculous 0.91 ERA in 10 starts.
(The winners of the two matchups will play June 3rd at 5:00 at Counter Clocks Field)