By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Errors played a role on both sides in Friday night’s 8-5 win by South Laurel over visiting North Laurel.
First it was South Laurel taking advantage of three North Laurel errors in two innings to turn a 2-0 deficit into an 8-2 lead heading into the sixth inning.
Then the Cardinals committed two errors in the sixth that lead to three Jaguar runs, closing the gap to three, but that would be as close as North Laurel would get as Alex Sears came in to shut the door and preserve the South Laurel win.
“In our early losses errors have killed us,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said. “That’s what’s been hurting us. But the morale of the story is we left too many runners on base and missed too many scoring opportunities. Ultimately that was our doom.”
Zach Hurley got the start for North Laurel, and he kept South Laurel at bay through the early part of the game. But he ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth as the momentum started to shift in South Laurel’s favor.
“Hurley threw a heck of a game,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said. “He’s very good and kept us off-balanced early.”
South Laurel countered with Trey Martin, who went two innings and gave up a two-run homer in the second to Austin Thompson for an early 2-0 Jaguar lead. The Jags could have had more runs in the inning, but a caught stealing and an inning ending 3-6 double play got South Laurel out of the jam.
The Jags put the first two runners on in the third when Byron Rice singled and Marcus Carson drew a walk. That was all for Martin, as Austin Vigeant came in with two on and no outs. The South lefty was able to work out his way out of the inning to keep his team down by just two.
The Cards had a chance to get some of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, but left two runners stranded.
South would tie the game in the bottom of the fourth, thanks in part to two North Laurel errors.
Daniel Neal led off with a single to center. Matthew Slavey then hit a pop fly to third where Austin Rudder made the catch but the ball popped out of his glove.
A sacrifice bunt by Zach Allen moved the runners up, and when Martin grounded out to short, Neal came home for South’s first run. The throw back to third in an attempt to get Slavey got away, and Slavey came home, tying the game at 2-2.
Then came the fifth, where the Cards scored six runs on just two hits to take what looked like a comfortable 8-2 lead.
It all started with Vigeant drawing a walk and Tucker Martin brought in as a courtesy runner. Trent Abner was then hit by a pitch. After Joe Gaines sacrificed the runners to second and third with a bunt, Alex Sears was intentionally walked to load the bases. A walk to Daniel Neal forced Martin home and Hurley out of the game, as Byron Rice took over on the mound.
Slavey then beat out an infield singe that saw both Sears and Abner score on the play to make it 5-2. Allen then laced a double to center, scoring Braden Miller (running for Neal). Trey Martin grounded out to third, which allowed Slavey to score. The throw to third in an attempt to get Allen got away and Allen came home for an 8-2 lead.
“We were able to get to Hurley in that inning and run him out of the game,” Harris said. “That helped us.”
“We were trying to keep his pitch count down,” McWhorter said of Hurley. “He threw really well. We did a lot of good things. Our pitchers threw strikes and we were making plays early.”
The Jaguars struck right back, taking advantage of two South Laurel errors in the top of the sixth, cutting the lead to 8-5.
Neal had taken over for Vigeant, but struggled with his control. Cole Lewis singled to start the inning, followed by a walk to Hurley. Logan Mallory then doubled to center to score Lewis.
Thompson grounded to short, but Sears’ throw to Allen was up the line, which allowed Thompson to be safe at first and Hurley to score. Allen’s throw to third got away, which allowed Mallory to come home, cutting the lead to three, 8-5.
After Ethan Maxey walked, Sears was brought in to relieve Neal. He got out of the inning, striking out the first two batters, then getting Rice to ground out to second and Allen showed why his nickname is “Scoop” when he came up with the one-hop throw from Joe Gaines to end the inning.
“I talked to our guys about catching and throwing,” Harris said. “We let them back in the game with two bad throws.”
South looked to have something cooking in the bottom of the sixth as Vigeant led off with a walk followed by a single to right by Abner. Vigeant tried to make it to third, but Thompson’s throw was right on the money to gun the South runner down.
“I ran us out of that inning,” Harris said. “But for the most part we ran the bases well.”
“Austin Thompson was my MVP tonight,” McWhorter said.
Sears then retired the side in the top of the seventh and South Laurel came away with an 8-5 win.
“We played a good game and scratched out some runs,” Harris said. “We hit the ball well.”
“I’m pleased with our effort,” McWhorter said. “We battled back after falling behind by six runs, and that’s encouraging. We just need to clean some things up.”
The Jaguars were scheduled to play at Harlan County Saturday, then travel to Lincoln County tonight and Whitley County Tuesday. South Laurel’s scheduled to host Madison Southern tonight and Letcher County Central Tuesday.