By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MANCHESTER—Prior to Thursday night’s game with Clay County, South Laurel coach Wynn Harris noticed that he didn’t like the energy level that his team was showing.
Maybe it was because of the Cards had played only two games since March 16. Maybe it was because his team was looking forward to Spring Break. Whatever the reason, the South Laurel Cardinals lost their first game of the season to the host Tigers, 3-1.
“We didn’t really show up,” Harris said. “Maybe it was because we had been stuck inside due to the weather since last Friday. That could be part of it. But they (Clay) were a little more focused than we were.”
Tyler Allen threw a complete game for the Tigers (7-2) to pick up the win. He allowed just one run on four hits while striking out 10 and walking two. He also smacked a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning.
“Clay has a good team, and that guy on the mound could really pitch it,” Harris said.
The Cards (5-1) countered with Zach Allen, who didn’t pitch a bad game in taking the loss. He went three innings, allowing two runs on three hits. He struck out one and hit one batter. Matthew Slavey pitched the fourth inning and worked his way out of a bases loaded jam. Trey Martin came in to pitch the final two innings.
With two out in the bottom of the first, Allen took a 3-2 offering and deposited it over the short right field fence to give Clay a 1-0 lead.
“That home run hurt us,” Harris said.
The Cards looked to have something brewing in the top of the second when Daniel Neal led off with a double, then with two outs, Martin walked. But the Cards couldn’t take advantage when Austin Moore struck out to end the inning.
Clay made it 2-0 in the home half of the second, thanks in part to two South Laurel errors. Nathaniel Huff led things off with a single to right and stole second. Dustin Gross then grounded to short, but the throw to third got away, and Huff took off for home. Neal gathered in the loose ball and fired it to home, where Moore tagged Huff out. Gross moved to second on the play.
Jordan White singled to center where Trent Abner reached to pick up the ball but couldn’t get a good gripe on it, which allowed Gross to score to make it 2-0.
South Laurel finally got on the board in the top of the fourth when Alex Sears singled, stole second, then reached third on an error. After Neal and Slavey struck out, Allen singled to left to being Sears home and cut the lead to 2-1.
Slavey took over for Allen on the mound in the bottom of the fourth and was greeted by a single from Austin Carnahan. After Huff popped out to second, Gross was hit by a pitch to put two runners on for White. Slavey’s pitch looked like it hit the butt of White’s bat, but the umpire ruled it hit the Clay batter, so now the bases were loaded with only one out.
Tanner Hoskins hit a grounder to short, and Sears fired it home for the force out on Carnahan. Slavey then got Trevor Sams to ground back to him to get out of the inning unscathed.
South would get only one more hit in the game, a single by Brennan Miller in the top of the fifth. The only other Card to reach base over the final three innings was Sears, who walked to lead off the sixth.
Clay added its final run in the bottom of the fifth for the 3-1 lead. After Slavey walked Dylan Garrison to lead off the inning, Martin came in to relieve him. He fanned the next two batters and it looked like South might escape the inning with no damage.
Carnahan grounded the ball down the third base line, where Neal moved to his right to make the play. But the ball hit the third base bag and popped away for a single. Huff grounded the next ball to Neal who couldn’t make the play and Garrison scored for the 3-1 lead.
“One loss doesn’t kill you or define your season,” Harris said. “We just have to refocus and regroup.”