By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
LEXINGTON—On a night fit more for polar bears than Cardinals, South Laurel used a combination of strong pitching and poor fielding by Powell County to down the Pirates, 7-0, in the Hits for Home Invitational at Whitaker Bank Ball Park Wednesday night.
“Our pitchers did a really good job tonight,” coach Wynn Harris said. “We used four guys tonight, and five Saturday (in a 4-1 win over Southwestern). I’m really pleased with our pitchers.”
Austin Vigeant got the start, going three innings, allowing no runs on three hits. He struck out two and walked one in picking up the win. In both the first and second innings Powell County (0-1) had two runners on but the Cardinal southpaw worked his way out of both jams.
Meanwhile, South Laurel (2-0) put up all seven of its runs in the first three innings, helped along by five Pirate errors. Good baserunning by the Cardinals helped South take advantage of those miscues.
“We did a pretty good job baserunning,” Harris said. “And we did the little things tonight that enabled us to score early. Then our bats came around.”
The temperature at game time, which was delayed due to the first game running long, was 32 degrees. By the time the game ended, the mercury had dipped to 27, and with a strong wind blowing, the wind chill factor made it feel much colder. Add to that intermittent snow flurries throughout the entire game, which made Whitaker Bank Ball Park look like a snow globe at times.
Back-to-back singles in the top of the first by Trey Marcum and Billy Hatmaker put two runners on for Powell County with two outs, but Vigeant got Dylan Morton to ground out to Zach Allen at first to end the inning.
The Cards struck for four runs in the bottom of the first to take control of the game and never let up.
With one out, Joe Gaines walked. Alex Sears then doubled to center, and Harris started to wave Gaines home. As Gaines rounded third, Harris threw his hands up to stop his runner, who quickly scurried back to third, diving to beat the tag.
Daniel Neal reached on an error to score Gaines. He would steal second with Matt Slavey at the plate. Slavey grounded a ball to short which got through the legs of the Powell County player and rolled almost to the warning track, scoring Sears and Neal to make it 3-0. Slavey ended up on third and scored when Austin Moore beat out an infield single for one of his three hits on the night. For his effort, the Cardinal catcher earned Player of the Game honors.
“I’m happy for Austin,” Harris said. “He struggled Saturday, but he played well tonight. And he had to handle four different pitchers.”
The Pirates again had two runners on in the second with two outs, but Vigeant struck out Hunter Martin to end the inning. The Cards tacked another run on in the bottom of the second when Sears reached on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Slavey. That was all for starter Hatmaker, who was replaced by Jacob Hall in the third.
The Cardinals greeted Hall with two more runs in the inning, as Powell County committed two more errors, and the South lead grew to 7-0.
With one out, Moore singled and Tucker Martin came in as a courtesy runner. After Brennan Miller popped out, Trent Abner hit a little roller down the first base line, where Hall fielded it and threw to third, but the ball got away, scoring Martin. With Gaines at the plate, Abner stole second, then scored when Gaines’ hit to left was misplayed to make it 7-0.
South had a chance to add more runs to its lead when Sears and Neal both walked to load the bases, but Slavey grounded out to end the inning.
Braden Miller took over for Vigeant in the top of the fourth and worked two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. Slavey pitched the sixth, where he allowed one hit, then Allen took over in the seventh, where two Powell County runners reached base with two outs, but Allen struck out Marcum to end the game.
The Cardinals are scheduled to host McCreary Central tonight, then Lincoln County on Saturday.
Hits for Home Invitational
South Laurel 7, Powell County 0
Powell County 000 000 0—0 6 7
South Laurel 412 000 x—7 8 1