What's harder than trying to hit a 90-mph fastball with your eyes closed?
Trying to predict high school baseball's post-season with your eyes open.
Several region tournaments aren't finished yet, but the top seven teams in the state ratings, and 16 of the top 25, have already been eliminated. The casualties include No. 1 Lexington Christian, No. 2 Eastern, No. 3. Apollo, No. 4 Tates Creek, No. 5 Pleasure Ridge Park (defending state champ), and No. 6 Covington Catholic.
"You see it every day in the major leagues and on the college level," LCA Coach Keith Galloway said after his team was upset by Bryan Station in the 11th Region semifinals. "Even if you think you're the best team you don't always win. It's gotta be played."
It's shaping up to be a wide-open state tournament, maybe as wide open as 25 years ago when East Carter was the long-shot winner.
■ The 11th Region baseball and softball playoffs were a hit with the teams, coaches and (most) fans. The ground crews at Applebee's Park (baseball) and UK (softball) enabled the tournaments to be run as scheduled despite the rain that played havoc with other region sites. The Lexington Legends were great partners with the baseball region, guaranteeing the teams a nice payout. Even though UK charged a couple thousand dollars for the use of its softball complex, tournament manager Bob Gibson of Woodford County said the softball region "did well financially, more than breaking even," and he hopes the event can return to UK. The only downside was that there wasn't enough seating to accommodate all the fans, some of whom had to strain to see the action.
■ Winning a regional baseball tournament isn't supposed to be easy, but South Laurel made it look that way by mercy-ruling its way to the 13th Region crown. The Cardinals beat Harlan County 12-2 and Knox Central 10-0 to reach the finals, then blasted Bell County 20-7 for the title. "That was a little bit of a surprise," South Laurel Coach Wynn Harris said of the three lopsided wins. Senior center fielder Ricky Bowling smacked a grand slam and a two-run homer to lead the rout, and Chris Adams improved his pitching record to 6-0. "This team has consistently gotten better over the season," Harris said. "We're peaking at the right time." Senior catcher Ryan Woody, region player of the year, is hitting .473 heading into next week's semi-state against the 14th Region champ.
■ Russell County shortstop Tyler Robertson, an eighth-grader, went 3-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Lakers to an 8-3 victory over Bowling Green in the 4th Region finals. Robertson's reaction? "It's pretty scary, actually," he told the Bowling Green Daily News. "There's a huge town around here, around Bowling Green, all these schools. And we just come from nowhere, basically." Russell County plays 3rd Region champ Owensboro in next week's semi-state.
■ Four players who figure to be in the discussion for Miss Softball: Rachel Akins of North Laurel, Amber Riddle of Rowan County, Jordan Trimble of Manual, Maris Harreld of Meade County and Shelly Taylor of Eastern.
Akins is hitting .465 with 39 RBI. She's also the all-time home run leader at North Laurel with 12.
Riddle has a .636 batting average with 17 homers and 65 RBI. She has a state-record 55 career home runs.
Trimble, a Louisville signee, is hitting .402, and has a pitching record of 7-1 and a 1.98 ERA. She has 98 strikeouts in 63 innings. Trimble has played every position for Manual this season.
Harreld has been a dominant pitcher, sporting a 19-1 record with a 0.54 ERA with 154 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 142 innings.
Taylor, who signed with Western Kentucky, is hitting .400 and has made only one error in center field this year.
■ Lafayette senior shortstop Brandon Smith signed to play baseball at Asbury.
■ Former Dunbar boys' basketball coach Eddie Oakley is the new principal at Shelby County High School. Oakley has been an assistant principal at Dunbar for four years.
■ Get-well wishes to former Harrodsburg football and track coach Alvis Johnson, who had heart bypass surgery on May 19. Rosetta Johnson said her husband did not have a heart attack, or even chest pains, but general discomfort led him to have a catheterization. He had surgery a few days later at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington. "Recovery is a slow process, which is hard for Alvis because he doesn't want to sit around," Rosetta said. "But he's doing fine and feeling better."
■ Former Mason County and Tennessee star Chris Lofton had a successful rookie season in the Beko Turkish Basketball League. He averaged 20 points for Mersin Municipality, and set a modern-day record with 61 points in a game in which he hit 17 of 22 three-pointers.
■ One season away from coaching boys' basketball was too much for Mike Flynn. He officiated some junior high, freshman and junior varsity hoops. But it wasn't coaching. "So when the Highlands job came open, I thought, 'Wow. I hope I have a shot at that,'" he said. He got the job, replacing Willie Schlarman. Flynn, 51, has taken three schools to the Sweet Sixteen: Warren Central (1987), Holmes (1990) and Ashland Blazer (2001, '02).He has a career record of 429-243. Having led Holmes to a state runner-up finish in 1990, Flynn was thrilled by the Bulldogs' run to the state championship this year. "The (9th) region doesn't get the respect in basketball that it deserves," he said. "Holmes winning the title will go a long way toward dispelling that." Now that he's at Highlands, Flynn will be trying his best to knock off Holmes.
■ Joel Nickell of Morgan County had a memorable senior year. He is the only student in school history to break par in a golf match, catch a TD pass in a football game, score in double figures in a basketball game, and be the winning pitcher in a baseball game. Nickell is also co-valedictorian of his graduating class with sports teammate Tyler Adkins.
■ East Jessamine and West Jessamine have new girls' basketball coaches. Jacqueline Coleman is leaving Burgin to take over at East. Troy Lee Thomas, boys' coach at Green County, will coach the girls at West.
■ Lafayette grad Jayson Langfels, a sophomore third baseman at EKU, earned first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference honors. Langfels led the OVC in hitting (.441) and RBI (72). He also hit 12 homers, including two winning walk-off blasts.
■ Al Giordano, whose name was synonymous with Caldwell County High School sports, died a few weeks ago. He was 77. Giordano coached at Caldwell County for 45 years, including stints in football, baseball, golf, softball and basketball. He was a star football player at Murray State and played pro baseball in the Dodgers' farm system. He is in the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame.
■ Cary Barr has resigned as Paris boys' basketball coach after 14 years. (The Greyhounds have had eight football coaches in that time.) Barr will keep coaching baseball at Paris and take over as athletic director. "I'm stepping back to take a breather," he said. "I may get back into basketball one day. If not, I've had a good run." A Paris graduate (Class of 1971), Barr also coached at MMI and Bath County. He's been the baseball boss at Paris for 21 years, and was a football assistant for 11 seasons. Geoff Cody, his basketball assistant for nine years, will take over as the Greyhounds' head coach. Cody played in three consecutive state tournaments for Knott County Central in the early 1990s.
■ Central Hardin has hired David Robbins as its girls' basketball coach. He replaces Terry Buckles. Robbins was a middle school coach.
■ The 19th annual Joe B. Hall Kentucky Prep Classic boys' basketball event next January has a tentative lineup: Knott Central vs. Tates Creek; defending state champ Holmes vs. Christian County; and Covington Catholic vs. Montgomery County.
■ Keith Downing, a starter on Mason County's 2008 state title team and this year's 10th Region champs, will play at Transylvania. Sayre's Ryan Brady will also play for the Pioneers.
■ Claire Henkel, a kicker for Bryan Station's football team and a soccer standout, will play college soccer at Macalester in St. Paul, Minn.
■ Dunbar soccer players Will Potter and Alex Riggs have signed with DePauw, where they will join former teammate Brian Lawless.
■ Woodford County's Harry Watts will play college golf at Transylvania.
■ Frankfort speedster Quan Weaver, state champ in the Class A 100- and 200-meter dashes, committed to play football at Louisville. The 5-11, 200-pounder ran for more than 2,000 yards last year. "Quan is as good of a person as a football player," Frankfort Coach Craig Foley said in an e-mail. "He physically has the body to step on the college football field and play right away ... A very hard worker who leads by example ... I think he could play offense or defense at the next level and be successful at both." Louisville also got a commitment from Apollo's Harris Bivin, a 6-2, 295-pound lineman.