By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
LOG MOUNTAIN—North Laurel got a timely lesson Monday with a 1-0 loss to Bell County. There was only one thing coach Darren McWhorter didn’t like about it.
“Just the result,” he said.
There were things that may have been productive from the game. Watching the Bobcats celebrate with high fives and chest bumps showed the game probably meant more to them than the Jaguars. Bell County had lost three straight, including three straight by 10 runs. North Laurel had beaten the Bobcats 9-3 in their previous meeting.
“I hope these guys learn something from this. How easy a game can get away from you and you take a loss,” McWhorter said. “aka Jackson County next Monday. I hope that’s a wake-up call for these guys. I think it was. They’re not real happy right now.”
Jackson County is the opening game in the 49th District Tournament next week and a game with much bigger stakes. A loss then will end the season. What the Jackson County game has in common with Monday’s loss is North Laurel will be a heavy favorite. They will also likely face a starting pitcher similar to the soft thrower the Bobcats used.
“Velocity-wise it was as slow as we’ve seen in a while,” McWhorter said. “Those guys have given us trouble in the past.”
North Laurel managed just five hits, but left 11 runners stranded. They missed scoring chances just about every way you could including a pick off, a play at the plate, and some frustrating strikeouts.
“When you’re used to seeing a certain speed and locking in, then when it changes you can have a hard time adjusting and we did. Every now and then we would lock in on one and hit it good,” McWhorter said.
The Jaguars were playing shorthanded with their top two hitters out of the lineup. Marcus Carson stayed in London to attend senior awards. All Carson had done in the past nine at bats was nine hits with six for extra bases. His average has risen to .518. Weston Griebel is hitting over .400 and also missed due to a field trip for straight A students.
“It gives these other guys and opportunity to step up. Some of them did,” McWhorter said.
Wasted in this scoreless night for the offense was one of the better pitching efforts of the season for Austin Thompson. After giving up a walk and an RBI double in the first inning, Thompson shut down the Bobcats with just one more hit.
“Austin pitched good enough to win the game. You throw a two-hitter and the other team scores one run you’ve pitched well enough to win,” McWhorter said.
The Bell County run didn’t seem like much at the time. North Laurel left runners in scoring position five of the seven innings. A walk and a hit batter were squandered in the first inning. Ethan Maxey blasted a one-out double in the third inning. Cole Lewis led off the fifth inning with a single, but was picked off. Maxey followed with a stand-up triple. Again the runner stalled at third.
When Austin Rudder led off the sixth inning with a triple, it led to a pitching change. It was a gamble that worked with Rudder being gunned down in a close play at home trying to score on a grounder to third. The Jaguars loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but again the big hit didn’t come.
“We couldn’t get a base hit with guys in scoring position,” McWhorter said. “You have to give those guys credit too. They’re throwing strikes, battling, not walking anybody and making us swing.”
North Laurel 12, Williamsburg 2
Marcus Carson ran his hit streak to nine straight at bats with a 5-for-5 day against Williamsburg. Carson finished with four singles and a double.
Carson led off the game with a double and scored on a sacrifice by Ethan Maxey.
Williamsburg scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first to tie the game. North Laurel took the lead for good in the second inning. Logan Mallory singled and scored on a single by Carson.
Weston Griebel reached on an error in the third inning and scored on a single by Austin Thompson.
A pair of runs in the fourth inning made it a 5-0 game. Carson drove in another run with a single and scored on a triple by Griebel.
A four-run fifth inning was highlighted by an Austin Thompson home run. Thompson also walked and scored in the sixth inning.
Williamsburg added another unearned run in the sixth inning off starter Byron Rice, who allowed just six hits on the day.
Carson and Griebel both singled and scored in the seventh inning for the Jaguars.
North Laurel’s game scheduled for Tuesday with Barbourville was cancelled. The Jaguars will close out the regular season with home games Thursday against Harlan County and Friday against Middlesboro.