LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When North Laurel faced Clay County starter Tanner Hoskins earlier this season, they were held to a pair of runs. Monday the Jaguars jumped on Hoskins early and then held on for a 6-3 win in the 49th District championship game.
“Getting some runs early was nice. We faced them earlier in the year and got beat 3-2. He gave us some trouble,” McWhorter said.
North scored three runs in the first inning. The Jaguars added two more runs in the second inning before Hoskins found his rhythm.
“We were able to get some runs early and then he settled down. I thought all pitchers involved did a good job,” McWhorter said.
North Laurel got six innings of three-hit pitching from Zach Hurley with Marcus Carson closing out the seventh inning. The two North Laurel pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts.
Although the game was played a North Laurel, Clay County was home team due to be the higher seed. It worked out well for North Laurel. Carson jumped on the game’s first pitch for a single. Ethan Maxey stroked a one-out single. Zach Hurley drove in both runners with a double. Hurley had also doubled his last two at bats against Jackson County, making it three straight doubles on the night.
Logan Mallory dumped an RBI single into right field to make it a 3-0 lead.
Clay County would get a fast start as well as Hurley uncharacteristically walked the first two batters he faced. Clay County’s first run came when Ethan Maxey’s throw to third sailed into the outfield on a steal attempt.
“It’s good and it’s bad. He trusts his arm more than anybody I have ever seen. He is not afraid to throw,” McWhorter said.
An RBI single by Dustin Gross had the Tigers within 3-2. McWhorter said Hurley had a mechanical issue he cleared up when he pitched from the stretch and was also having a hard time with his grip.
“It was muggy and sticky out here. When your hand is sticky like that the ball sticks to your hand. It doesn’t shoot out of there like it normally does,” McWhorter said.
The Jaguars would get those runs back in the second inning. Carson and Weston Griebel both singled. A sacrifice fly by Maxey scored Carson. Griebel would race home on a passed ball.
Although Clay County had base runners in every inning, it failed to get another run across until the seventh. The defense made big plays like Logan Mallory turning a double play in the fourth inning on a line drive to first base. There was another unorthodox double play in the sixth inning.
“We made plays. We’ve made plays here the last little bit. We got lucky and got out of some jams,” McWhorter said.
North Laurel made it 6-2 with a run in the fifth inning. Hurley legged out an infield single and scored on a single by Austin Rudder.
The defense may have kept the Tigers from a big inning in the sixth. Dustin Gross led off with a walk and Dylan Garrison singled. When the ball was bobbled in the outfield, Gross tried to score. He would be gunned down on a relay throw from Cole Lewis to Maxey. While the Clay County coach ran out to argue the call, Garrison was still running. Maxey would gun the ball to Jake McWhorter at third base, who ran him down for the third out.
“It got interesting there in the last couple of innings, but I expect nothing less playing Clay. It’s a good rivalry. We know every time we play them we’re going to get their A game,” McWhorter said.
Carson struck out three batters in the seventh, but did allow a run. Jordan White walked and Tanner Smith singled. White would later score on a wild pitch.
McWhorter said winning the 49th District was “huge” this season with a chance of an easier first round matchup in the region tournament. He described the 13th Region as “wide open.”
“If we can get some good games pitched, I like our chances. We are playing really well this last week of the season,” McWhorter said. “You try to win three in a row now, put a three-game string together. I think we’ve got the pitching to do it. Defensively we can do it.”
Both North and Clay advance to the 13th Region Tournament, to be held at Knox Central High School.