By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
SOMERSET—Sometimes things just don’t go your way.
South Laurel saw its nine-game winning streak come to an end Monday night, falling to the Pulaski County Maroons, 9-2. It was South’s first loss since returning from South Carolina over spring break, and its worse loss since a 14-5 defeat at the hands of Summerville, S.C.
“You never want to lose, but a loss right now doesn’t hurt us,” South Laurel coach Wynn Harris said. “Hopefully we can learn from this and forget it.”
The Cards (16-4) were coming off a 14-0 win over Letcher County Central Friday night and were averaging 8.3 runs per game. But on this night, South found the timely hits hard to come by against Pulaski’s Aaron Smith.
“They threw a good arm at us,” Harris said. The game was originally scheduled to be a home game for South, but was moved to Pulaski because South’s field was still too wet.
Even though they lost by seven runs, it wasn’t like South Laurel didn’t have its chances. The Cards left nine runners stranded, including the bases loaded in the seventh inning. South left a runner on base in every inning except the fifth. Pulaski also missed several scoring chances leaving 10 stranded.
Pulaski (13-8) were also able to take advantage some of bad luck on South’s part, especially in its five-run fifth inning that saw Trey Martin misplay a ball in left field, and Alex Sears slip when fielding a grounder. Runs scored on both instances.
Austin Vigeant got the start for South, but on this night the junior left-hander didn’t have his good stuff. He went 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs on only four hits. He struck out two and walked four.
Pulaski did most of its damage in the fifth, scoring five runs.
Vigeant walked the lead off hitter, Eric Jones. Dustin Vaught beat out an infield hit to deep short. The next batter laid down a sacrifice bunt that catcher Austin Moore fielded and threw to second in an attempt to get Vaught, who was safe. This loaded the bases for Tyler Wesley.
Wesley grounded a routine ball to Sears at short. He fielded the ball cleanly, but as he planted to throw to second, his feet went out from under him, allowing a run to score and all runners to be safe.
Blake Burton followed with a single that drove in two to make it 3-0. After Vigeant retired the next two batters, Smith hit a fly ball to left where Trey Martin misplayed it and two more runs came home for the 5-0 lead.
South answered with a run in the top of the third, but an excellent relay throw from shortstop Taylor Gover kept the Cards from scoring another run.
Joe Gaines singled to left with on out. Sears then stroked a double to left-center. Gaines was waved around third and headed for home, but the throw from Gover, the cut off man, to catcher Devin Vaught was perfect, and Gaines was gunned down at the plate. Sears would score on a single by Daniel Neal to cut the lead to 5-1.
Pulaski added two more runs in the bottom of the inning as Vigeant gave way to Martin.
It stayed 7-2 until the bottom of the fifth, when the Maroons scored two more runs to up their lead to 9-1. Walks and some well placed hits led to the Pulaski runs. The Maroons also left the bases loaded in the inning.
“They hit a lot of balls where we weren’t,” Harris said.
The Cards left two runners stranded in the sixth, as did Pulaski in the bottom of the inning.
South was now down to its last at bat in the top of the seventh. Taylor Morris led things off with a single to right. Trent Abner then laced a single to left, but he tried to stretch it into a double. Unfortunately for the Cards, Morris had held up at second, and Abner had to race back to first, where he was thrown out.
Walks to Gaines and Sears loaded the bases for Neal, who singled to right to bring home Morris. But Smith struck out Martin and got Moore to fly out to end the game.
“Maybe we needed this to refocus,” Harris said of the loss. “How we respond to this loss will be key. We can’t let this carry over to tomorrow night. Bottom line is we need to refocus.”
The Cards were on the road at Madison Southern last night and are scheduled to host Southwestern on Thursday.