LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MCKEE—North Laurel didn’t win the 49th District or the 13th Region Saturday. The Jaguars’ 17-1 win over Jackson County was a big step toward both.
“That pretty much guarantees you a shot in the region being that No. 1 seed. You just have to play one game to be the winner out of the district, so that’s a plus,” North Laurel coach Darren McWhorter said.
The win over the Generals and last week’s win over Clay County gave North Laurel the top seed in the district tournament. The top seed also means you are automatically in the championship game and at least in the field for the 13th Region Tournament.
“It’s been a week of ups and downs. I thought we played well all week,” McWhorter said.
It was a full week that included losses to South Laurel and Bryan Station. There were also wins over Clay County, Knox Central, and Middlesboro.
“I told them it’s a matter of trying to have a better week next week than this week,” McWhorter said.
This week the Jaguars will pass the halfway point of the season.
“We’re better now than we were when we started. That’s a plus when you are moving forward and getting better,” McWhorter said.
He does see his team with a long way to go still before they reach their peak. Other than a few defensive hiccups, the Jaguars have played consistent. North Laurel pitchers have allowed four runs or less in 10 games. Offensively the Jaguars have not been shut out.
“When you start seeing good pitching you have to manufacture runs. You have to get a guy on, hopefully steal a base, bunt him over, and somebody drive him in,” McWhorter said.
McWhorter pointed out the 4-3 loss to South Laurel last week. The Jaguars loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but failed to take advantage.
“We had a chance against Bryan Station (Friday). They got up on us early 5-0. We come back and it’s a 6-4 game in the seventh with guys on first and third with no outs. You’re thinking you have a chance to come back,” McWhorter said.
North Laurel 17, Jackson County 1
The Generals were held hitless by Byron Rice until a fifth inning single drove in their only run. It would be their only hit. Rice had a perfect game until he hit a batter in the third inning.
The game was never in doubt with the Jaguars scoring four runs in the first inning. North Laurel had five hits in the first inning, including RBI strokes from Austin Thompson, Logan Mallory, and Austin Rudder.
Six more hits and six runs in the second inning made it a 10-0 game. Rudder drove in two runs with a double and Cole Lewis delivered a two-run single.
North Laurel scored single runs in the third and fourth inning to make it a 12-0 game.
The big hit in a five-run fifth inning was a two-run double by Braxston Hicks.
Thompson finished the night 3-for-3 with a double and drove in a run with each hit.
Bryan Station 6, North Laurel 4
Bryan Station scored a run in the second inning and four runs in the third for a 5-0 lead. Dylan Messer took over in relief in the fourth inning and retired the first four batters he faced. Messer would give up a single in the fifth inning, which led to an unearned run. By holding the Defenders in check, Messer gave his team a chance to rally.
The rally started in the fourth inning with a leadoff triple by Ethan Maxey. Weston Griebel followed with a hit to drive home Maxey. North Laurel got two more runs back in the fifth inning. Cole Lewis tripled and scored on a single by Austin Rudder. Rudder stole a couple of bases and scored for a 6-3 game.
In the bottom of the seventh, Logan Mallory led off with a double and Lewis followed with a single. A walk to Rudder put the tying run on base. The rally ended there with a strikeout and a pick off.
The Jaguars will travel to Middlesboro Thursday and host a rematch with South Laurel on Friday.