By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Ryan Shears almost didn’t get the start Friday night against Green County.
After pitching the seventh inning Wednesday night in a 5-4 win over Clay County, the North pitcher told coach Darren McWhorter that his arm was tight.
“I almost didn’t start him,” McWhorter said. “I almost went with Ethan Eversole. But he told me he could go.”
For the Jaguars, that was a good thing, as Shears struck out nine in a 4-3 win over the Dragons.
“Ryan only threw 80 some pitches,” McWhorter said. “For seven innings that’s pretty good. He pitched lights out after the first inning.”
It was in that first inning that the Dragons (12-12) were able to score three runs on three hits, and they were helped by two North Laurel errors.
“That’s baseball,” McWhorter said. “A few little hits, some errors. That happens sometimes.”
But Shears wasn’t the only hero on the night. You can add Cole Lewis and Marcus Carson to the list.
Coming into the bottom of the seventh, Lewis, the No. 9 hitter, and Carson, the lead-off hitter, were a combined 0-for-5 against Green County pitcher Austin Walley. And with two outs, the game looked destined for extra innings.
But Lewis smacked a single to left and stole second, bringing Carson to the plate. Carson would also stroke a single to left to bring in Lewis for the game winner.
“Cole did the exact same thing against Clay County,” McWhorter said. “We had some guys missing and he got the start. He’s been hitting the ball well for us and when he got the opportunity he stepped up. As did Marcus, who came through in the end.”
Green County opened the game with Chavis McDermott greeting Shears with a single to left, and moved up to second on a wild pitch. Walley then beat out and infield single to put two runners on for Colton Bush, who reached on an error to score McDermott to make it 1-0.
A single by Cody Houk scored Walley, and when Brennen Milby reached on an error, Bush came home for the 3-0 lead.
That would be all Shears would allow. Over the next six innings, he held the Dragons hitless and no Green County player would reach first base.
The Jaguars (16-3) answered with two runs in the bottom of the second, then tied the game with a single run in the third.
In the second, Shears reached on an error, and Clay Montgomery was brought in as a courtesy runner. John Evans beat out an infield single. Both runners moved up on a passed ball, and Montgomery scored when Taylor Bowling grounded out short to first. Zach Hurley followed with an RBI double to left.
With one out in the third, Zach Storm stroked a triple off the right field fence and scored on a single by Eversole. It stayed 3-3 until the bottom of the seventh.
“Green County’s pitcher did an outstanding job changing speeds and keeping us off balanced,” McWhorter said. “They have a good team, and I knew nothing about them coming in. I kept thinking we are going to explode but he kept us off balanced.”
The Jaguars were scheduled to host Rockcastle County Saturday, travel to Somerset tonight and travel to Barbourville Tuesday.