By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
If you expected North Laurel to make quick work of Jackson County, you left Tuesday’s game disappointed. The Generals went the distance before falling 10-4.
“We should have put them away sooner, but that kid is a crafty little pitcher. I knew he would come out and give us problems early,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said.
Although North Laurel’s six-run win over Jackson County looks relatively easy, the Jaguars fell behind 3-0 quickly. After three innings, the score was still knotted up at 3-3. It gave McWhorter a chance to do more teaching than a five-inning blowout would have allowed. Lesson No. 1 was to throw strikes.
“Every time they scored it was a guy we walked. If your pitchers are walking people, I don’t know what percentage of the time they score, but it is high,” McWhorter said. “You can’t walk people. I don’t care who you are playing or when it is.”
Logan Mallory pitched the first three innings for North Laurel. He opened the game with a pair of walks before giving up a single to Austin Whitehead. All three runners would score. It would be all the runs Mallory allowed. Mallory struck out five in three innings.
Austin Thompson overpowered the Jackson County hitters at times with six strikeouts in four innings. A walk to open the fifth inning would lead to Jackson County’s only run. An error and a double steal plated the unearned run.
“They both settled down. Austin came in and finished up well,” McWhorter said.
The double steal would also be a teaching moment with McWhorter just wanting his team to get an out with the lead safely in hand. There was another play where a Jackson County runner rounded the base too far. Instead of throwing the runner out, the fielder hesitated too long.
“There are always teachable moments in everything you do,” McWhorter said.
After falling behind 3-0, North Laurel got one run back in the bottom of the first. Marcus Carson reached on an error and scored on a groundout by Thompson.
Two runs in the third inning tied the score. Weston Griebel and Cole Lewis led off the inning with singles. Griebel scored on a sacrifice fly by Carson. A single by Ethan Maxey drove in the tying run.
Zach Hurley led off the fourth inning with a triple and scored on Byron Rice single. Griebel doubled home Rice for a 5-3 lead. Jackson County made it 5-4 in the top of the fifth before North Laurel began to pull away.
“I thought we were hitting some hard balls, but they were playing real deep and everything we hit was right to them. We did have some good at bats and some guys hit some good hard shots,” McWhorter said.
North Laurel pieced together four straight singles with Rice driving in the first run of the inning. Griebel’s two-run double made it a 9-4 game.
Griebel went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles. Hurley also had three hits in four trips to the plate and was a home run short of the cycle.
“Griebel hit the ball extremely well and all of Zach’s were hard shots,” McWhorter said.
The Jaguars tacked on one more run in the sixth. Carson led off with a single and scored on a single by Hurley.
“It was good for them to come back and score some runs and make it a little more comfortable at the end,” McWhorter said.
The Jaguars were scheduled to play at Clay County Thursday with the No. 1 seed in the district tournament at stake.