By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—A 7-run fifth inning blew open a 1-1 tie as the South Laurel Cardinals wrapped up district play undefeated with an 8-1 win over Corbin.
“You set out to win them all but you never know if that’s going to happen,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said.
The Cardinals wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the 50th District Tournament the night before with a 3-0 win over those same Redhounds. In both games, South pitching held Corbin to just one hit.
Zach Allen got the start for the Cardinals (15-3, 6-0), going four innings to pick up the win. He allowed one run on one hit while striking out three and walking one.
Corbin (11-10, 3-3) countered with Chad Brown, who lasted 4 2/3 innings before being relieved by Taylor Combs. Brown allowed all eight runs on seven hits and struck out one.
Both pitchers had their good stuff going early, as the game was scoreless through three innings with both teams having just one hit. South’s came off the bat of Allen, a double in the top of the third. Corbin answered with a single in the bottom off the inning. Both runners were left stranded.
The first real scoring opportunity came in the top of the fourth, where South Laurel plated one run for the 1-0 lead. Alex Sears tripled to right with one out, but when Daniel Neal grounded to second, Sears was thrown out at home in a close play. Neal would score on a single by Trey Martin.
Corbin tied the game in the bottom of the inning, thanks to two South Laurel errors.
With one out, Combs walked, then advanced to second on an error, bringing Jacob Metzger to the plate. He struck out, but South catcher Austin Combs dropped the third strike. Instead of throwing to first for the sure out, he fired the ball to third in an attempt to get Combs. Both runners were safe.
Kevin Goins then reached on an error at short by Sears, which allowed Combs to score, tying the game 1-1.
That would be all the offense the Redhounds could muster, as South Laurel exploded for seven runs in the top of the fifth to seize control of the game.
Matthew Slavey got things started by beating out an infield single. Allen followed that with a single to left-center, putting two runners on with no outs. Taylor Morris came in as a courtesy runner for Allen.
Austin Vigeant laid down a sacrifice bunt, that Brown made an error on the play which allowed Vigeant to be safe at first and Slavey to score.
An intentional walk was issued to Trent Abner to load the bases with no outs for Joe Gaines, who flew out to left. Sears then stepped to the plate and doubled to right, clearing the bases and giving the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.
With Neal at bat, Sears advanced to third on a passed ball, then scored when Neal grounded out to short. Martin doubled to left, and that was all for Brown, who gave way to Combs.
Moore greeted Combs with a single to center that scored Martin. Tucker Martin came in to run for Moore, and he advanced to second on an error on a pick-off attempt at first. Slavey, batting for the second time in the inning, doubled to left to score Tucker Martin to make it 8-1.
Quinton Barnett threw the fifth and sixth innings for South. After retiring the side in the fifth, he hit Combs to lead off the sixth. Jace Woodruff came in to run for Combs. Barnett got Metzger to fly out to center, then Keaton Burton hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Woodruff at second. Goins then hit a screamer that looked destined for left, but Sears jumped to snag the line drive and end the inning. Sears took over pitching in the seventh and retired the side.
“They (Corbin) threw good pitchers at us,” Harris said. “I felt competent in our offense, and we were able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes. I’m proud of the way we pitched and played defense. We’ve been more focused in what we are doing.”
With the No. 1 seed wrapped up, Harris said his team will now focus on cleaning some things up and get ready for the first game of the district, which is still a few weeks away.
“We want to show what we can do,” Harris said. “Our focus is on that first game in the district. We can’t overlook that game.” For South, this was its eighth win in a row.
The Cardinals are scheduled to be on the road at Letcher County Central tonight and Lincoln County on Saturday.