By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It was a far cry from the type of team North Laurel faced on its spring break trip to Charleston. The Jaguars played well in South Carolina and came away with one win. Monday North Laurel needed just five innings to rout McCreary central 14-1.
“Way, way different and I’m glad we came out like we did,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said.
McCreary County lost its first eight games this season before picking up its first win Friday, an 8-7 decision over Clinton County. The Raiders did play South Laurel tough early this season before losing 4-2. With district games coming up, McWhorter thought McCreary Central may have been saving some of its better pitchers. The biggest obstacle for the Raiders on Monday was control. North Laurel took charge with a seven-run second inning that included just two hits.
“They’ve got better pitching over there than what they were throwing and I thought our pitcher, Byron Rice, came out and threw a whale of a game,” McWhorter said.
Rice did not walk a batter, although he did hit three. McCreary Central managed just two hits with their fifth inning run unearned.
“He kept them off balance. They hit a lot of stuff off the end of the bat. He had a lot of putouts on little squibblers right back to him,” McWhorter said.
It looked like it might be a short night for the Jaguars when they plated seven run in the second inning on four walks and a hit batter. Marcus Carson and Logan Mallory had the only hits in the inning. Mallory had a pair of hits and a two RBI on the night. Ethan Maxey continued to get on base going 1-for-1 with two walks and was hit once.
“They’ve hit it consistently from the start up to now,” McWhorter said.
McWhorter didn’t think the seven walks were a case of his team suddenly finding great patience at the plate.
“The pitches just weren’t that good. They weren’t anything to swing at or they would have,” McWhorter said. “I’m glad they were patient because you can go up there and swing at that stuff and swing yourself right out of a game. That’s why you get this five-inning game was because of the walks.”
After jumping ahead 7-0, North Laurel added two more runs in the third inning. Singles by Weston Griebel and Rice were followed by a two-run single by Austin Thompson.
Zach Hurley led off the fourth inning with a triple. Rice drove in two runs with a hard double to left field. Maxey and Mallory followed with RBI singles. Another run scored on a fielder’s choice as North Laurel coasted to a 14-0 lead.
McCreary did scratch out a run in the top of the fifth. Kyle Jones singled, followed by an error and a hit batter. Leadoff hitter Dakota Wallen was also hit by a pitch to force home the only McCreary Central run.
The rest of the week should be tougher for the Jaguars. Jackson County was scheduled to play at North Laurel Tuesday with the Jaguars traveling to Clay County Thursday. Those games will decide seeding for the district tournament and who will get a first-round bye.
“Jackson County you’ll see better pitching. You’ll see a guy throwing nothing but off-speed probably. We better be in there ready to do something with that pitch,” McWhorter said.
Clay County is probably the Jaguars biggest rival not named South Laurel. The Tigers (9-5) have been averaging almost 8.5 runs per game with five games in double figures.
“They have been scoring a ton of runs. Their pitchers must be throwing well. We’ll know where we stand in the district if we get those two games in this week,” McWhorter said.