By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Good pitching, defense and hitting. Those are the three keys to winning baseball games.
South Laurel had all three Tuesday night in its 10-0 win over Whitley County for its sixth win in a row since returning from South Carolina.
Pitching? Check. Austin Vigeant took a perfect game into the fourth inning before giving up a two-out triple. He finished with the one-hitter to pick up the win for South and stay unbeaten on the season.
“Vigeant did a great job,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said. “He did what he was supposed to do and get ground ball outs. The defense backed him up.”
Defense? Double Check. The Cardinals played errorless baseball and turned in some fine plays in the field, including a catch by second baseman Joe Gaines in the fourth inning that saw him sprint a long way to catch the ball in foul territory in shallow right field.
“A great catch by Joe,” Harris said. “The entire team gave a good defensive effort.”
Hitting? Triple check. Alex Sears, Austin Moore and Trey Martin all had two hits to lead the Cardinal offense. Sears was 2-for-3 with two singles and an RBI. Martin was also 2-for-3 with a single, double and two RBIs. Moore went 2-for-2 with two singles and three RBIs.
“We’ve been hitting the ball well for the past couple of weeks,” Harris said. During their six-game win streak, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents, 66-9.
South Laurel (13-3, 4-0) were coming off a 14-3 win over the Colonels the night before. Sometimes when a team has an easy win its hard for them to stay focused the next time they play that same team, especially when it’s back-to-back nights. On this night, there would be no letdown for the Cardinals.
“That’s a sign of maturity,” Harris said. “We are getting smarter and starting to understand the overall scheme of the game and of the season. Overall I’m pleased with the way things are going.”
Like the previous two games, the Cards jumped on their opponent early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first after sending seven batters to the plate.
Trent Abner got things started with a lead-off single to center. After stealing second and advancing to third on a groundout by Gaines, he scored when Sears singled to left.
Daniel Neal followed with a walk, one of the three times he walked in the game. With two runners on, Martin stroked a single to left that scored Sears to make it 2-0. A single by Moore brought Neal home for the 3-0 lead.
South added six more runs in the bottom of the third to put the game out of reach.
Gaines and Sears led things off with back-to-back singles. Neal walked to load the bases for Martin, who continued swinging a hot bat with an infield single that scored Gaines. Moore kept his hot bat going with a two-run single that brought home Sears and Neal. Matthew Slavey followed with a single of his own that plated Martin and Taylor Morris (running for Moore). Slavey scored when Zach Allen grounded out to third for the 9-0 lead.
While the offense was getting things done at the plate, Vigeant was mowing Whitley County (10-6, 1-3) batters down at the plate. He retired the first 11 batters he faced before Tilmon Jackson’s triple to center broke up the perfect game with two out in the fourth inning. Vigeant walked Michael Harris, then settled back down to get Stevie Watson to fly out to Brennan Miller in right to end the inning.
South’s final run came in the bottom of the fourth as Neal drew a lead-off walk, stole second and advanced to third before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Martin for the 10-0 lead.
Quinton Barnett came in to relieve Vigeant in the fifth. After walking the lead off batter, who was then throw out trying to steal second, he struck out Jordan Crussenberry and got Cody Lewis to pop out to him to end the game.
“It’s been a process for us,” Harris said. “We want to win the small battles. Win a game. Win a series. Win the week. The key for us is to stay focused. I’m proud of the way we played tonight and really happy with the result.”
The Cards were scheduled to play at North Laurel tonight, then at Rockcastle County Saturday.