By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BARBOURVILLE—Everybody needs a break.
Three of North Laurel’s previous four games were decided by a single run. Tuesday the Jaguars made short work of Barbourville, topping the Tigers 14-4 in five innings.
“It was nice because that (pitcher) that started the game for them laid one on us last year,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said.
Jeffrey Banfield didn’t have near the success this time that he did last season. The Tigers beat North Laurel 11-2 last May as the Jaguars dropped three straight games for the third time. This season the Jaguars have only three total losses and are on a nine-game winning streak. They knocked Banfield out in the fifth inning.
“He pitched a really good game then and I was nervous about facing him again. Our three losses have come to little left-handed guys,” McWhorter said.
It shouldn’t bother the North Laurel hitters if they face a southpaw. Marcus Carson is the only left handed hitter in the regular starting lineup.
“It doesn’t matter with Marcus. It doesn’t faze him,” McWhorter said.
Carson went 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBI, including an inside-the-park home run. Ryan Shears also homered and drove in a pair of runs. Zach Hurley finished with two hits, including a double, and drove in a pair of runs. Every North Laurel starter had at least one hit.
McWhorter said he doesn’t think teams are trying to throw their left-handed pitchers against the Jaguars.
“It’s just how the week falls and who has thrown when,” McWhorter said.
Banfield ran into trouble with his first pitch of the second inning when Ryan Shears launched a home run out of the Union College field. McWhorter said Shears has been swinging well and didn’t really need time to adjust after basketball season led to a late start to baseball for Shears, Carson, and Ethan Eversole.
“All of those guys come in and swing the way you expect them to. They played enough this summer that they didn’t have any lag time from basketball,” McWhorter said.
After Shears’ homer, John Evans walked and moved to third on a Hurley doubled. Evans scored on a balk.
Barbourville took a 4-2 lead in the second inning with the help of two leadoff walks by Austin Thompson.
“He didn’t locate very well today like he did his last outing,” McWhorter said.
Both runners scored when a high bouncer bounced just over the head of third baseman Gabe Blair. Back-to-back doubles by Thomas Broughton and Banfield made it a 4-2 game.
Thompson hit a batter and walked a batter in the third, but worked out of trouble. He walked the first two batters of the fourth before being replaced by Hurley. Hurley coaxed grounders from the first two batters he faced and the struck out the next four.
“We’ve had a hard time getting him innings. Kids have been going full games and he’s not had a chance to get in. We’ve been pitching him in JV games just to keep him throwing,” McWhorter said. “He has a nice arm.”
With the Barbourville offense held in check after the second inning, the North Laurel bats did the rest. The Jaguars scored four runs in the third to regain the lead. Carson, Evans, and Hurley singled in the third. Evans drove in one run and Hurley a pair.
Taylor Bowling led off the fourth inning with a single. Carson followed with a deep drive to centerfield that was misplayed. Carson turned on the jets and circled the bases.
North Laurel made it a 10-run lead with six runs in the fifth inning. Carson and Zach Storm each had two-run singles in the inning.
It will be a challenge for the Jaguars to keep the current winning streak alive. They added a game Wednesday against Bryan Station (18-7). The Defenders were the first team to beat North Laurel this season and ended a six-game winning streak 10-1. It’s the Jaguars worst loss.
“Hopefully we can go up there and have a better showing than when they came to our place and played. We laid an egg on that day,” McWhorter said.
Tonight the Jaguars are scheduled to face South Laurel (18-6).