By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
You could tell when South Laurel made an error on the first play of the game against Letcher County Central that it wasn’t going to be the Cardinals night.
“We just weren’t ready to go,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said after his team’s 7-5 loss to Letcher County Central. “We had defensive lapses that hurt us. We led the game off with an error. Things we were doing right earlier in the year we didn’t do tonight.”
The Cougars (8-3) built a 7-0 lead going into the bottom of the third before the Cardinals (7-4) finally got on the scoreboard. South would battle back and had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but Charlie Davis and Zach Allen struck out to end the game.
“We weren’t in the game,” Harris said. “But we scratched and clawed our way back. Offense was not the problem. We ran the bases well and put the ball in play and hit the ball square most of the time.”
Letcher County Central loaded the bases in the top of the first off starter Brennan Miller before he got Dakota Yonts to pop out to shortstop Alex Sears in shallow left to end the inning. Miller went two innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits while striking out two and walking one. Miller didn’t get much help on either offense or defense while he was on the mound. The defense committed two errors, while the offense mustered just two hits.
“Brennan threw well for us,” Harris said.
After retiring the first two batters in the top of the second, Miller walked Stephen Fox, and Caleb Baker and Corey Dollarhide hit back-to-back singles to load the bases for Jordan Short. Short beat out an infield single to score Fox for a 1-0 lead. A double from Zane Blair cleared the bases and pushed Letcher’s lead to 4-0.
The Cards stranded a runner in the bottom of the inning when Chase McWhorter doubled with two outs but Letcher pitcher Nick King got Davis to foul out to the catcher. McWhorter, who had been in a batting slump for the past few games, had two doubles, an RBI and a run scored in this game. Harris was glad to see his right fielder break out of the slump.
“Chase has struggled since the Rockcastle game and we need him to hit for us, and it was really great to see him do that tonight,” Harris said.
Another player who had a big night at the plate was Drew Irvin, who got the start in left field. Irvin had three singles and reached on a fielder’s choice. He also scored a run.
“Drew has stepped up for us the last couple of weeks,” Harris said. “He does a lot of good things.”
Letcher scored three more runs in the top of the third to make it 7-0. Matthew Slavey came in to relieve Miller in the inning.
South got its first run in the bottom of the inning as Trent Abner reached on an error, stole second, then scored on an Alex Sears single. The Cards made it 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Allen led things off with a double to left and scored on a deep fly out to center by Sears. All game long the wind was blowing out to center until Sears stepped to the plate and the flag went limp. Had the wind still been blowing out, it would have been a three-run homer and things might have turned out differently.
Three more runs in the bottom of the sixth brought the Cards to within two, 7-5. Irvin led off with a single to right, where the right fielder made an error on the play, allowing Irvin to reach second. With one out, McWhorter doubled to center to bring Irvin home. That was all for King, as Baker replaced him on the mound.
Davis greeted Baker by beating out an infield single, followed by a single from Allen to score McWhorter. An intentional walk was issued to Abner to load the bases for Trey Martin, who flew out to right center, scoring Davis to cut the lead to 7-5.
Braden Miller took over for Slavey on the mound in the top of the seventh with one on and one out. He allowed one hit, but Letcher left two runners on base. Slavey went four innings, allowing no runs on two hits while striking out five and walking one.
Daniel Neal led off the bottom of the inning with a walk, and Austin Moore was brought in to run for him. Irvin grounded to short, forcing out Moore at second. A single by Stephen Simpson and a walk to McWhorter loaded the bases, but Baker struck out Davis and Allen to end the game.
The Cardinals were at Clay County Tuesday night and are scheduled to host McCreary Central on Thursday. The game with Middlesboro on Friday has been canceled.