LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Seven North Laurel seniors didn’t want their final home game to end with a sloppy loss to Whitley County. Still it was a real possibility until one of those seniors, Ryan Shears, delivered a walk-off double for an 8-7 win.
“Ryan Shears stepped up and had a big hit, put a good swing on it and drove it into the gap,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said.
Shears was coming off a five-RBI night against Knox Central. Although he started slow Thursday with a pair of strikeouts, he finished strong with three hits and four RBI.
“I sure wasn’t wanting extra innings. We’re saving pitching for the district coming up next week,” McWhorter said. “I was getting concerned. I wasn’t wanting Marcus (Carson) to throw another inning.”
There was no celebrating on Senior Night until Clay Montgomery crossed home with the winning run. Everything seemed to be a struggle as North Laurel walked eight batters, left a dozen of their own runners stranded, and managed just one hit in the first three innings.
McWhorter agreed it was a game that required more coaching attention than most. It was the little things like reminding a fielder to cover a base, the players on the bench not retrieving fouls balls, and the scoreboard not keeping up with the count that he didn’t expect to be doing on game No. 30. Maybe it was that the players no longer had school to force them to get up early or maybe it was the heat.
“Memorial Day weekend or next Tuesday you don’t know what the weather is going to be. You’re going to have to play a doubleheader hopefully on Tuesday in the district, so you better be ready to get hot and play hot,” McWhorter said. “They’re going to have to learn and figure out how to play a ballgame without having to get up and come to school. They were kind of sluggish and lazy looking today.”
The Jaguars scored a run in the first inning, but it was a gift from the Colonels and came without a hit. Carson led off with a walk and Zach Storm reached on an error. Ethan Eversole was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The first run scored on a groundout by John Evans.
North Laurel starter Zach Hurley ran into trouble after a leadoff walk by Tilmon Jackson to start the third inning. Alex Rose and Corey Crisolgo both walked on four straight pitches to load the bases.
“I thought Zach at times looked really, really good on the mound. Then they would square around to bunt and he couldn’t throw a strike,” McWhorter said.
The Colonels tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Austin Ysidro. Johnny Mahan, one of just two seniors on the Whitley County roster, delivered a two-out, two-run double to give the Colonels a 3-1 lead. North Laurel would not lead again until the final swing.
“We didn’t step up early and get people in. We kept miss-licking and popping up, hitting ground balls right at people,” McWhorter said. “Again that stuff will bite you in tournament play.”
Storm reached on an error in the bottom of the third and scored on an Eversole double, but the Jaguars left two runners stranded.
An RBI single by Rose gave Whitley County a 4-2 lead. North Laurel tied it in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run single by Shears. Again they left two runners stranded.
When Hurley walked the first three batters in the fifth inning, his night was done. Carson got the first batter out on a bunt that allowed one run to score. Two more runs scored in an inning that featured four walks, a hit batter, and two wild pitches but no hits.
Again North Laurel answered with one run scoring on an error and RBI singles from Taylor Bowling and Shears. Shears clutch hit tied the game.
Carson walked a batter in each of the last two innings, but no serious threats emerged. The bottom of the seventh began with a walk to Montgomery and a bunt by Carson to advance the runner. Storm flied out to centerfield and Eversole drew an intentional walk. Shears allowed the senior ceremonies to finally begin when he drove a pitch into the gap.
“(Their pitcher) came out and he battled and kept battling. He did a good job out there on the mound. They made plays. It’s just one of those games,” McWhorter said. “Luckily we were able to step up and get a win.”
North Laurel’s game scheduled for today was cancelled by Campbellsville. That leaves Jaguars with a game at noon Saturday at Rockcastle County to close out the regular season.