By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
If you missed the bottom of the third inning during Friday’s South Laurel-McCreary Central game, then you missed almost all of the Cardinal offense.
The Cards scored all four of their runs in that inning on four hits. Over the next three innings, South managed only two more hits.
“Our mental focus could have been better at the plate,” coach Wynn Harris said. “After that third inning our offense was non-existent and we made some base running mistakes.”
In all three of South Laurel’s win this season, Harris has used multiple pitchers. Against the Raiders, four Cardinals combined to throw the three-hitter.
“Pitching again was a good point for us,” Harris said. “We had some struggles tonight, but we are trying to develop a pitching staff. It’s still early in the year, and we haven’t had a lot of good weather to scrimmage in.”
Trey Martin started the game for South Laurel (3-0), throwing three innings of no-hit baseball, while striking out four, walking two and hitting one batter. He would pick up the win. Taylor Morris came in to relieve him in the fourth inning, but battled control problems. He walked four and hit one batter. He was charged with the first McCreary Central (0-2) run after Quentin Barnett took over for him in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out.
Barnett pitched two innings, giving up a run on three hits with three strikeouts. Alex Sears then came in to close the door in the top of the seventh to pick up the save.
The game was scoreless and hitless through the first 2 1/2 innings of play. Both Martin and McCreary Central starter Alex Barnett kept the opposing team’s offense in check.
That is until the bottom of the third.
Martin led off with a single to center and advanced to second on a passed ball and third on a balk. He scored when Austin Moore grounded out to short.
Brennan Miller followed with a single right, bringing up Trent Abner, who stroked a double to left that plated Miller to make it 2-0. After Abner stole third, Joe Gaines hit a sacrifice fly to right-center, which allowed Abner to score South’s third run and bring Sears to the plate. He took the first pitch offering from Barnett and deposited it over the left field fence for a solo home run and a 4-0 South Laurel advantage.
Morris took over on the mound in the top of the fourth, walking the first two batters he faced, but he got out of that jam by retiring the next three batters. He wouldn’t be so lucky in the fifth.
After getting the first batter out, he walked the next two, then hit Dakota Wallen to load the bases. That would be all for him, as Barnett took over on the mound.
Barnett walked the first batter he faced to force in a run. But he struck out Jake Kennedy, then got Andrew Wells to ground back to him for the third out.
Abner singled in the bottom of the inning and stole second, but was picked off to end the inning.
The Raiders scored in the top of the sixth as Bradly Strunk led off with a double to center, followed by an infield single to deep short by Kyle Jones. Barnett then picked Strunk off at second and struck out Ethan Stephens and looked like he was going to get out of the inning until Arron Brown single to drive in Jones to cut the lead to 4-2. But the Raiders could get no closer, as Sears came in and retired the side.
“All in all a win is a win,” Harris said. “I’m happy with that. But we have got to be focused every day and every game.”
The Cardinals were scheduled to host Lincoln County Saturday, then be on the road at Knox Central tonight before returning home Tuesday to host Russell County.