By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—Through four innings of play Tuesday night, North Laurel held a 7-0 lead in the Area 2 championship game against Clay County.
It was a good thing to score those runs early, because Clay County outscored North 5-2 over the final two innings, but it wasn’t enough, as North Laurel took the Area 2 title with a 9-5 win.
“Jumping on them early was certainly a key,” North Laurel coach Greg Binder said. “I was relaxed for most of the game, but got nervous late when Clay started coming back.”
Alex Binder got the start for North Laurel, and turned in a fine performance. In four innings of work, he held Clay scoreless and allowed just four hits. “He did a fantastic job keeping the ball low,” Binder said. “That was our goal coming in. Both he and Ben (Philpot) did that. We wanted to get a lot of grounders.”
A four-run first inning staked North to a 4-0 lead, and it was Binder who got things started with a single to center. Philpot followed by drawing a walk off Clay pitcher D.J. McCulley. Noah Smith then sent a long fly to center that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double, which scored Binder.
Hutton Shepherd grounded out to second to score Philpot. Cory Hodge hit into a fielder’s choice to score Smith for a 3-0 lead. Hodge stole third and was replaced by Anthony Fanella, who scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0. That was all for McCulley, who was replaced by Blake Mills.
North tacked two more runs on the board in the third for a 6-0 lead, all with two outs.
Dalton Sizemore kept the inning alive with a single to center, followed by a double by Binder. Both runners scored on a single to left off the bat of Philpot to make it 6-0.
The lead grew to 7-0 in the fourth when Shepherd led off with a solo home run to center on the first pitch from Mills.
Clay looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the inning when it loaded the bases with only one out, but Binder got Jakob Begley to foul out to the catcher and struck out John Chandler Gilbert to get out of the jam.
Philpot took over on the mound in the fifth inning but was greeted rudely by Clay County. McCulley led off with a double, then Jacob Curry went deep for a two-run shot to cut the lead to 7-2. Clay had the bases loaded when Philpot got the next batter to ground into an inning ending 1-2-3 double play.
North got those two runs back in the top of the sixth to push its lead to 9-2.
Shepherd led off with a single to left, and Andrew Belt came on as a pinch runner. Jimmy Storm walked, and both runners moved up on a passed ball. Connor Robinson then came into pitch for Clay County but he walked Fanella to load the bases.
Chase Pennington flew out to center but Belt scored on the play. Fanella would later score on an error to make it 9-2.
Clay was now down to its last three outs and were determined not to go down without a fight, scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Begley and Gilbert led off with back-to-back singles. McCulley then took a 3-2 pitch from Philpot and deposited it over the centerfield fence to cut the lead to 9-5. But Philpot retired to the next three batters to end the game, giving North Laurel the Area 2 title and trip to the district tournament, which is scheduled to start Monday at Corbin.
“We hit the ball well,” Binder said. “Many of the boys produced and they did what I called upon them to do. I’m pleased with the way we played, and it is good to get a week off and prepare for the district.”
Corbin 11, South London 0
The South London All-Stars could never figure out Corbin pitcher Jason Stancil, who one-hit them in an 11-0 win, thus eliminating South London from tournament action.
Corbin jumped on top early, scoring two runs in the top of the first off South London pitcher Layne McClure. Collin Kidd struck out to start the game, but South catcher Matthew Dalton dropped the ball and Kidd beat the throw to first.
Nick Yeager then walked and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. After Jordan Fox fanned, Peyton Tyree singled to center, where the ball was misplayed, allowing both runners to score for a 2-0 lead.
That would be all the runs scored until the top of the fifth, when Corbin tacked on nine runs to end the game on the Mercy Rule. Both McClure and Stancil were keeping the batters at bay, but Stancil was doing it with less pitches. Through three innings, the Corbin pitcher had thrown only 38 pitches compared to 74 by McClure. The only South hit came in the third when Dalton beat out a slow roller to third.
McClure struck out the side in the top of the fourth, but that would be all for him, as he finished with 89 pitches thrown.
Then came the top of the fifth.
Landon Roark took over on the mound for South London, but the Corbin bats came alive, scoring eight runs off him for a 10-0 lead before Dalton Garland took over on the mound.
Yeager got things going with a single to right, followed by a walk by Fox. Tyree singled to drive in Yeager. Christian Gosslin was then hit by a pitch to load the bases for Austin Reynolds, who also walked, forcing in another run for a 4-0 lead.
Roark then struck out the next batter and got Matthew Creekmore to pop out to him and looked to be getting out of the inning when Stancil helped his own cause with a three-run double to left to make it 7-0. He would then score on a single by Kidd. Yeager followed with a single, bringing Fox to the plate. He delivered with a two-run double to center to make it 10-0. Fox later scored for the 11-0 lead.
Stancil then struck out three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the inning to move Corbin on in the tournament. They were scheduled to play Clay County Wednesday night, with the winner moving on to the district tournament.