By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Bachman-Turner Overdrive had a hit song in the 1970s with “Takin’ Care of Business.” Monday night, that could have been South Laurel’s theme, as the Cardinals rolled over Whitley County, 11-1, to secure top seed in the 50th District Tournament.
“We put a little challenge in them on Sunday to take care of business tonight,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said. “I told them they had their destiny in their hands and they took care of that.”
The Cardinals (17-6, 5-0) were coming off a 13-5 loss at Middlesboro, a loss that snapped their seven game winning streak. Against the Colonels, the Cards scored in four of the five innings played, including five in the fifth to end the game with the 10-run rule.
Trey Martin picked up the win, going three innings, allowing no runs and no hits. Only one Whitley County player reached base via a walk in the second inning.
“Excellent job by Trey,” Harris said. “His arm was tender, but he said he would gut it out.”
Braden Miller came in to pitch the final two innings.
“Braden came in and did a good job,” Harris said.
Daniel Neal was another player who did a good job. He rolled his ankle on Saturday, so Harris decided to use him as a designated hitter instead of playing him at third. The ankle might have been tender, but his bat wasn’t. He doubled to score a run in the first, reached on an error in the third, then led off the fifth with a towering solo home run to left that NASA might still be tracking.
Since Neal was just hitting, Charlie Davis was inserted into the line up at third base, and came up big on the first two chances he had. In the first inning, he snagged a hot shot from Johnny Mahan and threw him out at first. Then in the second, he charged a Stevie Watson grounder, bobbled it twice, but still managed to get Watson at first.
“Charlie played a heck of a game at third,” Harris said.
South scored three in the bottom of the first to take control early.
Trent Abner led things off with a single to right. He stole second and advanced to third on an error on a pick off attempt. Joe Gaines would fly out to left to score Abner.
Alex Sears singled and scored on the Neal double. Neal would come home on a double by Chase McWhorter for a 3-0 lead. Whitley’s starting pitcher, Tilmon Jackson, last only 2/3 of an inning.
The lead grew to 4-0 in the second as Martin led off with a double and Austin Moore came in as a courtesy runner. Moore scored on a sacrifice fly by Abner.
Two more runs in the third made it 6-0.
With one out, Neal reached on an error by the second baseman but was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice by Stephen Simpson. Matthew Slavey came in to run for Simpson.
Now with two outs, McWhorter singled to center, and advanced to second on the throw to third in an attempt to get Slavey. A two RBI single to left by Drew Irvin brought both runners home.
Whitley County (9-11, 2-3) got its sole run in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 6-1. South Laurel answered with five in the bottom of the inning to end the game, 11-1.
Neal’s homer got things started. Simpson walked, and Slavey once again came in to run for the South catcher. He stole second with McWhorter at the plate, then scored on an RBI single by McWhorter.
A single by Irvin put two runners on for Miller, who fouled out to first. Zach Allen grounded out second to first, but McWhorter scored to make it 9-1.
A short fly ball behind second base by Abner hit off a Whitley County player’s glove for an error, allowing Irvin to score. Gaines stroked a single to center, and the throw to third in an attempt to get Abner sailed past the third baseman and Abner scampered home for the final run.
“I don’t want us to relax,” Harris said. “Now it is more mental focus than physical over the next two weeks. Our focus now will be to get ready for the district. We played smart tonight, made good decisions, ran the bases well, and did what we needed to do. Now if we can maintain that.”
The Cards traveled to Whitley County Tuesday and will host North Laurel Friday.