Woodford County's baseball team is in a rut this post-season, but it's a rut the Yellowjackets can revel in.
Fifteenth-ranked Woodford County, which got great pitching and timely hitting in beating both Western Hills and Franklin County 3-1 in the 41st District last week, used the same formula in clipping Paul Laurence Dunbar 3-1 in the first round of the 11th Region Tournament at Tates Creek on Monday.
"That's my favorite score in the world if we're on top," Coach Jeff Parrett said after the Jackets advanced to the region semifinals for the first time in nine years.
Clinton Hollon, rated the top junior pitcher in the nation by ESPN, starred on the mound. The fire-balling righthander threw a complete-game four-hitter, struck out seven, walked one and hit a couple batters.
"I had a lot of movement on the ball, but my accuracy wasn't as good as it could've been," Hollon said. "But I battled the whole way."
Hollon got an early boost when Woodford County backed him with two runs in its first at-bat.
With two outs, Eli Boggess struck out, but the umpire ruled the ball bounced into the mitt of Dunbar catcher Connor Huskey. Boggess took advantage of the confusion behind the plate and beat the throw to first to keep the inning alive.
After Chris Ares walked, Andy Stepp drove in both runners with a two-out single off Tyler Cox.
"A good job by Andy putting put the bat on the ball and finding a hole," Parrett said. "Getting the lead put a little pressure on Dunbar's batters, and took a little pressure off our guys."
The Bulldogs got on the board in the fourth. Tyler Zander singled, stole second, went to third on a balk and came home on Tyler Brummer's two-out hit. Brummer worked his way to third, but was stranded there when Hollon got an inning-ending strikeout.
"Clinton did a good job getting ahead in the count," Bulldogs Coach Larry Poynter said. "He's a tough guy to face and score a lot of runs on. He got the big outs when he needed them.
"Our guys did a great job putting themselves in position to make it happen, but we just couldn't come up with the hits."
Dunbar threatened in the seventh when it had two runners on with one out.
Hollon was familiar with such a tight spot. He remembered last year's region tournament when Madison Central stole home on him and beat the Jackets 2-1.
"I didn't want to repeat last year, so I knew I had to lock (Dunbar) down at the end," Hollon said.
He did just that. He got a couple groundouts to finish off the Bulldogs.
"It helps when you have a guy with talent like Clinton to get out of jams," Parrett said. "There's never an easy pitch off him. He stays really hard at you all the time. He does a great job keeping pressure on the hitters."
Paul Dunbar 000 100 0—1 4 0
Woodford County 200 010 x—3 4 3
Tyler Cox, Stephen Holdren (4) and Connor Huskey. Clinton Hollon and Gage Beavers.
Records—Dunbar 24-15; Woodford Co. 28-6
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com