No. 1 Central Hardin is living up to its rating in the Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament thanks in large part to its No. 1 and 1A pitching stars.
On Tuesday senior left-hander Drew Harrington fired a complete-game three-hitter with 15 strikeouts as Central Hardin blanked No. 9 Lone Oak 2-0.
On Thursday, junior right-hander Josh Krupinski threw five innings of one-hit ball with seven K's as the Bruins beat No. 15 Harrison County 6-1 in front of 3,098 fans at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
"It's pretty much what we expected out of those two guys," Central Hardin Coach Todd Thompson said of his pair of aces. "They've been our workhorses this year, and they've come up here and done exactly what we needed them to do."
Troy Squires, a shortstop/closer, pitched the last two innings for the Bruins and pushed their two-game strikeout total to 25.
Central Hardin was locked in a tight game until it erupted for four runs in the top of the seventh. Troy Riggs capped it with a bases-loaded double to deep center field that drove in three runs.
"To take the No. 1 team in the state down to the wire like we did, our kids shouldn't be ashamed of anything," Harrison County Coach Mac Whitaker said.
"We just couldn't get any offense going."
Thorobreds senior righty Jordan Martin, who as a freshman won the 2010 state title game, kept his team in the game as long as he could.
"But Jordan really did not have his stuff today," Whitaker said. "He couldn't get his breaking ball or cutter going. He did it on guts."
Riggs also had an RBI hit in the third when the Bruins also took a 2-0 lead.
Harrison County pulled to within 2-1 in the fifth. Cody Honeycutt walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Thorobreds got the tying run to third with two outs, but Krupinski stranded it there with a strikeout.
Central Hardin then blew it open in the seventh.
Pleasure Rige Park 3, St. Xavier 2: PRP's old reliables — pitching and defense — helped it hold off St. Xavier.
Greg Laughlin handled the pitching. The senior right-hander went the distance, giving up seven hits and one earned run (only his third this season in 66 innings). He had six strikeouts and no walks.
Laughlin had a shaky seventh — "Not my ideal last inning," he said with a laugh — but his defense saved him.
St. X, trailing 3-1, got a lead-off single by Andrew Hubbs. Trace Amshoff came in as a pinch-runner, but he didn't stick around long. PRP catcher Joe Hatcher picked him off first.
The Tigers didn't let that dampen their spirits.
"We still battled," Coach Andy Porta said. "Everybody in that dugout still believed. I think they had to after what happened Tuesday."
Porta was referring to St. X's last-gasp 2-1 eight-inning win over Logan County.
The Tigers rallied against PRP. Hayden Ford reached on an error and got to third on the bad throw. Sam Melchior singled to drive in Ford, making it 3-2. Jack Arnold came on to pinch run for Melchior.
When Miles Lee followed with a single to the left-field corner, Arnold tried to advance to third. But PRP left-fielder Austin Beckman gunned a throw to third where Josh Beams tagged Arnold for the second out.
Laughlin retired the next batter on a ground-out to end the game and avenge a 12-0 regular loss to St. X.
Laughlin (11-1) appreciated his defense: "All of them made my job so much easier. (Hatcher) has made clutch plays all tournament, and Beckman made a huge play there at third."
While PRP's offense manufactured three runs on just three hits (two by Hatcher), its defense was the difference.
"For sure," Beams said. "If not for making those plays we'd be going home losers."
PRP, a four-time state champ and four-time runner-up, finds itself back in the semifinals.
"Going through the gauntlet," Coach Bill Miller said.
Central Hardin 6, Harrison County 1
Central Hardin 002 000 4—6 8 0
Harrison County 000 010 0—1 1 2
Josh Krupinski, Troy Squires (6) and Gabe Hogan. Jordan Martin and Robbie Stroub.
Records—Central Hardin 34-5; Harrison County 25-8
Pleasure Ridge Park 3, St. Xavier 1
St. Xavier 000 010 1 —2 7 0
Pleasure Ridge Park 100 101 x—3 3 1
Ben Britt, Jack Cleary (6), Connor Underwood (6) and Austin Clemons. Greg Laughlin and Joe Hatcher. 2B—Miles Lee (X).
Records—St. Xavier 34-5; PRP 36-7.
Pleasure Ridge Park 3, St. Xavier 1
Central Hardin 6, Harrison Co. 1
6 p.m. — Mercer Co. vs. Henderson Co.
8:30 p.m. — Pleasure Ridge Park vs. Central Hardin
7 p.m. — Semifinal winners meet
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.