Assistant coach Rod Sears (left) consoles Luke Rakestraw after South Laurel was beaten by Bullitt East, 16-5.

LEXINGTON—It was one of those nightmares you wish you could wake from.

Coming into the KHSAA state baseball tournament at Applebee’s Park Thursday, one thing South Laurel could rely on was pitching. The Cards pitching staff had been strong and deep the entire season.

Maybe it was the grand stage they were on. Or maybe it was just baseball. Three Cardinal pitchers issued seven walks and hit one batter in the 10-run first, and from there, Bullitt East coasted to a 16-5 victory.

“I really don’t think they were nervous,” coach Wynn Harris said. “It was just one of those things. We’ve had such excellent command of our pitches for so long, maybe it caught up with us.”

Chris Adams took the mound to start for the Cardinals, but he lasted only six batters, allowing five runs on three hits, while walking three. Matthew Martin came in to replace Adams, but fared no better, walking four of the five batters he faced. When he was replaced by Matthew Gilbert, the Cards were already down, 7-0.

“The first inning was just a bad situation for South Laurel,” Bullitt East coach Jeff Bowles said. “Things went right for us. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”

South Laurel had been a comeback team all season long, but on this day, there would be no coming back. The 10-run first took its toll on the Cardinals, but they refused to give.

“You take the first inning away, and it’s a little different ball game,” Harris said. “In spite of the outcome, I’m real proud of our guys. They fought back, and we had a couple of innings where we had chances to put runs on the board. We got some, which kept ourselves in the game. We just didn’t throw strikes.”

The Cards loaded the bases twice in the fourth inning, but could only push across three runs. The timely hitting, another strong point all season long, just wasn’t there in this game.

Matt Bowles got the win for the Chargers, going five innings, allowing five runs on four hits while walking four. He also struck out four, including two in the top of the first.

Bowles, batting lead-off, started things for the Chargers will a single, and Shane Valentine came in to run for him. Josh Stearns walked, and Brandon Alphin followed with a single to score Valentine. On the throw to second in an attempt to get Alphin, Stearns scored to make it 2-0.

Zach McCarty drew another walk, and when Justin Jones sent a bloop single to center, Alphin came home to make it 3-0. Adams then walked Josh Whitmer to load the bases, and that was all for him. Martin came in to face Robbie Gibson, but his control was also off, walking Gibson to force in McCarty.

Another walk, this time to Cory Johnson, forced in Jones for a 5-0 lead. After getting Tyler Downs to force the runner out at home, Martin walked Bowles and Stearns, forcing in two more runs to make it 7-0.

Gilbert was then brought in to pitch, and he hit the first batter he faced, forcing in yet another run. When McCarty forced a runner at second, two more runs came home to make it 10-0.

South Laurel did get a run back in the top of the second when Ryan Woody walked to lead off the inning, and Kody Baker was brought in as a courtesy runner. He would later scored on a ground out by Ryan Reynolds.

Bullitt East scored two more in the third to make it 12-1. The Cards answered with three runs in the top of the fourth, cutting the lead to 12-4.

Luke Rakestraw singled to lead off the inning, followed by a single from Woody on a beautiful hit-and-run that put runners on the corners. Martin drew a walk, as Rakestraw scored. Matthew Peters was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Reynolds, who grounded out to first, which allowed Baker (running for Woody) to score.

Gilbert then walked to again load the bases, as Alex Sears came in to run. Following a Cody Kirby strikeout, Ricky Bowling was hit by a pitch, forcing in Martin to make it 12-4.

Any thoughts of a South Laurel comeback were quickly snuffed out by the Chargers, who tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by a bases loaded double by Alphin that cleared the bases. By the time the inning was over, Bullitt East held a 16-4 lead.

South scored its final run in the top of the fifth when Rakestraw singled to lead off the inning, and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Martin to make the final, 16-5.

When asked afterwards if, in his wildest dreams, he would have ever thought his team would have a first inning like they did, Harris had a unique answer.

“This is my wildest dream, to be able to coach here (in the state tournament,” Harris said. “But no, I never thought we would walk as many batters as we did.”

Denis House can be reached at

KHSAA State Baseball Tournament

at Applebee’s Park

Bullitt East 16, South Laurel 5

South Laurel 010 3— 5 4 1

Bullitt East (10)02 4—16 8 0

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