By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
LEXINGTON—Pitching and defense carried the South Laurel Cardinals into the semifinals of the Rawlings/KHSAA Baseball State Tournament where they faced off against Simon Kenton.
Unfortunately on this night, pitching and defense let the Cardinals down as they were eliminated by the Pioneers, 11-1, in six innings.
“Baseball happens,” Coach Wynn Harris said after the game. “We played well defensively and had good pitching all year. It slowly fell apart tonight. Sometimes you have those days.”
The Cardinals committed six errors in the loss, and the 11 runs were the most they had given up all year. The previous high was seven in a 7-0 loss to Mercer County.
“The compounding of errors, errors on top of errors, surprised me,” Harris said. “We’ve made mistakes before but our resolve was able to get us out of trouble. We didn’t get out of trouble tonight.”
The Cards also used four pitchers in the loss. Zach Allen started the game and was relived in the fourth inning by Trey Martin. Martin would face only four batters before he was replaced by Braden Miller. By then South Laurel was already trailing, 7-1. Daniel Neal would come in and face two batters in the sixth.
Simon Kenton countered with Tristen Marcum, who held the Cardinal batters in check, giving up just four hits on the night.
“That kid threw well tonight, just as he did in the opening game win over Southwestern,” Harris said. “I wish we could have gotten to him earlier but that’s how it goes.”
Simon Kenton would be the first team to score when it took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second as Tyler Smith led off by getting hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a passed ball. He scored when Marcum singled to right.
The Cards would tie the game in the top of the fourth when, with two outs, Allen sent a long fly ball that rolled to the wall in center field. As he raced toward third Harris waved him home for an inside-the-park home run.
“When I saw their guy bobble the ball that’s when I made my mind up to wave him around,” Harris said.
Harris hoped the run would give his team the momentum they needed, but the Pioneers quickly answered with a six-run fourth inning, helped along by three South Laurel errors.
Tyler Smith led off with a single to left and Price Burge followed with a double. When Marcum reached on an error, Smith and Burge scored to make it 3-1. Zach Davis came in to run for Marcum.
After Allen got Colton Downs to fly out to right, he then gave up a single that scored another run and make it 4-1. That would be all for Allen, who was replaced by Martin.
Martin walked the bases loaded before getting Michael Mundy to hit into a fielder’s choice and forced the runner at second. But an error on the throw to first allowed two more runs to cross home plate and make it a 6-1 game. After Sean Lawrence singled to drive in another run, Braden Miller took over on the mound and got the final out of the inning.
The Cards committed two more errors in the fifth inning but Miller was able to strike out the final batter as the Pioneers left two runners stranded.
South tried the muster a two-out rally in the top of the sixth as Neal and Allen hit back-to-back singles before Braden Miller grounded out to end the inning.
Simon Kenton then scored four more runs in the bottom of the inning as South committed another error, and the Pioneers advanced to the championship game with the 11-1 win.
“They didn’t really hit our pitching hard, they just hit balls where we weren’t,” Harris said.
Braden Miller and Austin Vigeant were named to the all-tournament team.
“Our resolve all year got us to this point,” Harris said. “It was a tremendous honor to make it to the Final Four and I’m happy for our guys. Happy but sad that we couldn’t take it one step further. But I’m ecstatic for our school to represent our community the way we did. I have a lot of mixed emotions right now.”