By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
While the offense has at times been a struggle for South Laurel, Wynn Harris knows he can usually rely on his pitching staff to keep his team in games.
Case in point Friday night.
The Cardinals used four different pitchers to throw a three-hitter as South Laurel rolled over Rockcastle County, 9-1.
“Pitching has been a strong point for us this season,” coach Wynn Harris said. “Our pitchers have given our defense a chance to make plays.”
Austin Vigeant got the start for South Laurel (6-1), and during his four innings of work pitched a jewel. The Cardinal southpaw allowed no runs and no hits while striking out six and walking just one. His performance got him the win for the Cardinals.
“A very good performance by Austin,” Harris said.
Rockcastle County (7-3) countered with Boone Saylor, who held his own for 5 2/3 innings before the Cardinals finally got to him in the sixth, an inning that saw South Laurel scored seven runs to break the game open.
“We struggled through five, but we finally got to him,” Harris said. “We’ve seen some pretty good pitching from every team this year. The thing I liked is that we didn’t hang our heads tonight and kept chipping away.”
The South Laurel were kept silent the night before in a 3-1 loss at Clay County, a team that Rockcastle beat this season, 5-2. But Trent Abner took the first pitch from Saylor and doubled to left in the bottom of the first. Alex Sears reached on an error to put two runners on for Daniel Neal. Neal sent a rocket to third where Damien McDaniel caught the ball and dove to the base as Abner scrambled back to the bag. A close play went Rockcastle’s way as Abner was called out to end the inning. Abner’s bat would play a key role in the Cardinal sixth.
The Cardinals scored twice in the bottom of the fourth for a 2-0 lead. With two outs on and Trey Martin on base, Austin Moore delivered a single to center that plated Martin for the 1-0 lead. Tucker Martin, running for Moore, scored when Vigeant helped himself by smacking a double to right to make it 2-0.
Rockcastle got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth off new pitcher Quinton Barnett. John Hughes opened with a single to left center and scored when Devon McGuire singled to left.
Braden Miller took over on the mound for the Cardinals in the sixth, and with two one and two outs, he got Tyler Smith got strike out, ending the threat.
Then came the bottom of the sixth.
With one out, Zach Allen singled to right, followed by a walk issued to Moore. Both runners moved up on a passed ball. After Miller struck out, his older brother, Brennan, drew a walk to load the bases for Abner.
They wouldn’t stay loaded for long.
Abner laced a triple to right center, clearing the bases and giving South a 5-1 lead. Joe Gaines followed with a single to drive in Abner.
After Sears walked, that was all for Saylor, as McDaniel took over on the mound. Daniel Neal greeted him with a single to left to score Gaines to make it 7-1. Neal moved to second on the throw to third.
The Cards now had runners on second and third for Martin, who struck out, but the Rockcastle catcher dropped the ball. His throw to first got away for a two-run error and a 9-1 lead.
Neal took over for South in the top of the seventh. After giving up a lead off single by Cameron McClure, he struck out the next three batters to end the game.
“This is a good confidence builder, especially after last night,” Harris said. “We’ve still got to be a little more consistent at the plate, but that will come with more field time. Trent leading off with a single gave us confidence, then that triple helped take the pressure off our pitchers.”
The Cardinals are now off to South Carolina to play during Spring Break.