By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BARBOURVILLE-Alex Sears, Brennan Miller and Daniel Neal all homered, and Quinton Barnett turned in a strong pitching performance as the South Laurel Cardinals rolled with ease over Pineville in the opening round of the 13th Region baseball tournament, 15-1.
With the win, the Cardinals advanced to face Harlan County in last night’s semifinal game.
“We played our game,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said. “We hit the ball hard, threw strikes, played defense and ran the bases aggressively.”
Harris elected to go with Barnett, and he wasn’t disappointed. Barnett allowed one run on two hits while striking out five and walking one. He took a no-hitter into the top of the fifth before losing it.
“Quinton threw a great game,” Harris said. “He went five innings and that allowed us to have a plan going into the last two games.”
Pineville countered with Kyle Capps, but he struggled all game long, giving up 15 runs on 17 hits as the South Laurel bats showed no mercy.
It all started in the bottom of the first. After Joe Gaines drew a one out walk, Sears took a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence for a 2-0 lead. The Cards put five more runs on the board in the second to really take control.
Zach Allen got things started with a single to left. Miller followed with a single of his own to left, but Allen was thrown out trying to go to third. Miller stole third and scored on a passed ball.
Now with two outs, Gaines kept the inning alive with a triple to right. Sears kept the hit parade going with a triple of his own that scored Gaines to make it 4-0. A double by Neal brought Sears home. Matthew Slavey and Trey Martin were both hit by a pitch to load the bases for Austin Moore. The Cardinal catcher singled to left to score Neal and Slavey and make it 7-0.
Miller led off the bottom of the third with a solo home run to right. Trent Abner singled and scored on a single by Gaines. With one out, Neal reached on an error and Slavey beat out an infield single to load the bases for Martin, who flew out to center, and Gaines tagged up and scored for the 10-0 lead.
The Cards added five more runs in the fourth, highlighted when Neal crushed the first pitch he saw over the centerfield fence for a grand slam and a 15-0 South Laurel advantage.
Pineville finally got to Barnett in the fifth when Conner Ford and Tanner Mike hit back-to-back doubles to score the Mountain Lions lone run.
“We are now looking at Harlan County,” Harris said. “That’s our focus.”
If South gets past the Black Bears, it will play the North Laurel-Middlesboro Thursday night for the region title. North Laurel blanked Corbin, 10-0, while Middlesboro downed Knox Central, 3-1.