LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
HARLAN—South Laurel jumped on North Laurel early and then rode the pitching of Braden Miller to a 6-2 win in Tuesday’s 13th Region semifinals. The Cardinals quick start was aided by a pair of North Laurel errors in a three-run first inning.
“Sometimes you want to have a good first inning and don’t get it. Tonight we got it,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said.
After a leadoff walk to Joe Gaines, errors allowed Trey Martin and Daniel Neal to reach base and two runs to score. Braden Miller provided the only hit in the inning, an RBI single to drive in the inning’s third run. The usually sure-handed Jaguars would make six errors on the night.
“You’re going to have games like this throughout he season. You sure don’t want it to happen at this time,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said.
With an early lead to work with, South Laurel starter Braden Miller turned in a solid outing. He allowed four hits with three walks and struck out nine.
“He threw a real good game. He doesn’t overpower you, but he changes speeds so well and locates so well. He made it tough on us,” McWhorter said.
Harris said Miller usually strikes out five or six per game. His nine K’s on Tuesday included striking out the side in the fourth inning.
“Braden Miller did what he has done all year. He threw strikes and got ahead in the counts. He made them put the ball in play to beat us,” Harris said.
The Jaguars were able to get to Miller with a two-out rally in the third inning. Ethan Maxey walked and Weston Griebel singled. It would be consecutive errors on balls hit by Zach Hurley and Austin Thompson that allowed the two unearned runs to score. Those would be the only two South Laurel errors.
The big concern for Harris was that his team might be losing the momentum they had gained in the first inning.
“It was swinging in their favor,” Harris said. “I knew we had to respond and our guys did. (North Laurel) was starting to get a little bit rowdier. They were starting to get a little more confident.”
The Jaguars tried to tie the game with a double steal. Thompson broke from first base to draw the throw with Hurley then bolting from third. When the throw home was low, Hurley hurdled over catcher Taylor Morris.
“We were trying to steal another run with the early break situation. I thought we made a good jump. The catcher made a really good play. The throw was a little low in the dirt and he scooped it up,” McWhorter said. “You can’t hurdle anybody. That’s the reason he was out. He didn’t get tagged.”
The Cardinals would get that run back in the top of the fourth. Brennan Miller led off with a single and scored on Joe Gaines’ triple to right centerfield.
“We were able to survive their threat when they came back with two runs,” Harris said. “Then we were able to respond and extend our lead a little bit.”
North Laurel had another two-out rally going in the fifth inning with Maxey and Griebel stroking consecutive singles. Maxey was thrown out trying to steal third to end the inning.
South Laurel then extended the lead with a pair of runs in the sixth. The inning opened with Morris reaching on a misplayed bunt. He would score on a single by Brennan Miller. Miller then scored when no one covered second on a throw by Maxey.
“The errors and the mistakes we made it’s a little more frustrating than some fundamentally sound games,” McWhorter said.
Logan Mallory took the loss for the Jaguars, although he allowed just one earned run. Mallory struck out eight and walked one.
“I thought Logan was throwing the ball well enough to get a win, but if you are going to make six errors you going to have to score more than two runs,” McWhorter said.
North Laurel’s was trying to win back-to-back 13th Region titles. They will lose second baseman Cole Lewis and right fielder Austin Thompson to graduation.
“It’s been a real successful year. Anytime you can win 25 games, we’re 25-12 now. We played some really good competition and played well,” McWhorter said.
South Laurel faced Corbin, a 1-0 winner over Clay County, Thursday for the 13th Region title. The Cards beat the Redhounds, 15-2, for the 50th District title.