By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
LEXINGTON—Usually when a team holds its opposition to just three hits it means a win.
But not when you commit seven errors, as North Laurel did last Thursday night in an 8-5 loss to Johnson Central in the Hits for Home Invitational at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
“Errors killed us,” coach Darren McWhorter said. “That and wild pitches. We’ve got to make the routine plays.”
Even though the Jaguars (1-1) made six errors, they were never completely out of the game. Trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the sixth, they managed to score twice to cut the lead to two. But they also had missed opportunities in that inning, as they loaded the bases three times in the inning (once with no outs), but could only push two runs across.
Then in the seventh, North had two on with one out, but couldn’t get either runner home.
“We were still in there,” McWhorter said. “We had the bases loaded but just couldn’t come up with the big hit.”
Johnson Central took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first off North starter Logan Mallory, with the first run unearned thanks to a throwing error in an attempt to get the runner at third base.
The Jags answered right away in the bottom of the inning, scoring twice to tie the game 2-2. Marcus Carson led off the inning with a single to center, stole second and third, and scored when Zach Hurley, who had walked, stole second and Johnson Central committed an error on the play. Hurley then came home on a single down the third base line by Mallory. North also missed a good opportunity to score more runs as the Jags had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jake McWhorter struck out to end the inning.
The Golden Eagles took a 4-2 lead in the top of the second as North committed two more errors, and a wild pitch scored one of the runs.
A solo home run to right off the bat of Carson in the bottom of the inning cut the lead to 4-3. It stayed that way until the top of the fifth, when Johnson Central scored twice for a 6-3 lead off new pitcher Hurley. Three North errors in the inning, and two wild pitches, were the Jaguars’ downfall. The Golden Eagles tacked another run on in the top of the sixth to make it 7-3.
Then the Jags started their comeback.
Mallory, Ethan Maxey and McWhorter all walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth, which brought Bo Robbins in to relieve starter Seth Blanton.
Robbins got McWhorter to fly out to left, which scored Ryan Abner, who came in as a courtesy runner for Mallory. A ground out by Byron Rice moved the runners to second and third and brought Carson to the plate.
Johnson Central elected not to pitch to Carson, who already had two hits on the day, walking him intentionally to load the bases for Cole Lewis. That strategy backfired, as Lewis stroked a single to center that plated Maxey, cutting the lead to 7-5. North still had the bases loaded but Robbins struck out Hurley to end the inning.
Johnson Central added a run in the top of the seventh to make it the final 8-5.
“We are still a work in progress,” McWhorter said. “Our infield is really young, but we will get better. I like this team a lot. They are a good group who really gets along. But the bottom line is they made the plays and we didn’t.”
Hits for Home Invitational
at Whitaker Bank Ballpark
Johnson Central 8, North Laurel 5
Johnson Central 220 021 1—8 3 1
North Laurel 210 002 0—5 7 7