High school baseball: Tates Creek carries big momentum into state tournament

mfields@herald-leader.comJune 2, 2013 

Tates Creek Coach Dom Fucci let his players shave "TC" on the back of his head and into his chest hair, keeping a promise he made if the team made the state tournament.

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Tates Creek baseball coach Dom Fucci got something off his chest after the Commodores won the 11th Region title for the first time in 23 years last week.

Keeping a promise to his players if they made it to the state tournament, Fucci let senior center fielder JaVon Shelby shave "TC" into his chest hair. Shelby also clipped "TC" into the back of Fucci's (balding) head.

"Job well done by JaVon," Fucci said with a laugh.

Job well done by the No. 4 Commodores, who bring a 19-game winning streak into the Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Tournament.

They play 8th Region champ Collins on Monday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Fucci said Caleb Johnson will get the start against Collins. The senior righthander is 9-0, with a 0.71 earned run average, and 67 strikeouts and only 10 walks in innings.

If Tates Creek advances to the quarterfinals, the coaching staff will probably choose from among Nick Richmond, (5-1, 1.21), Aaron Mitchell (4-3, 1.69), and Tanner Hart (4-0, 1.60).

Tates Creek's defense has been solid all season, and its offense has come on strong in the playoffs.

"We try to play aggressive ball, kind of like a National League club," Fucci said. "We rely on pitching and defense, and when we're hitting like we have been lately, we can be pretty good."

Lead-off man Devin Hairston has been great at setting the table. The junior shortstop is batting .462 and has 34 runs. Luke Rouse, No. 2 in the order, has 33 runs, and Shelby, who bats third, has 40 runs and 28 RBI.

Blake Rose has been clutch in the cleanup spot. He's hitting .385 and has 35 RBI and 33 runs. Jeffrey Chapuran has been consistent at the plate, too, with a .336 average and 30 RBI.

Shelby said the key to the Commodores' success has been a focus on playing consistent baseball, and not getting too full of themselves.

"We made a little motto before the season — stay healthy, humble and hungry. We've done that and it got us to the state tournament."

While most of the coaches in the state tournament say it's too close to call anybody a favorite, St. Xavier's Andy Porta didn't hesitate to single out Tates Creek.

"They've got to be the favorite," Porta said. "I've said all along they were the best team out of the 11th Region, and that's a loaded region."

Tates Creek's last appearance in the state tournament was 1990, when it was runner-up to Paintsville. The Commodores have won three state titles (1978, '80, '86).

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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