Paintsville loses legend in Charlie Adkins
Kentucky high school baseball lost a coaching giant when Paintsville's Charlie Adkins died of cancer this week at age 67.
When Adkins retired in 2005 after 34 years, he had 805 victories — third most in state history — and he proved that a small school could play ball with the big boys. His Tigers reached the final four five times, and won the state title in 1990, beating Tates Creek in the finals, after a runner-up finish in '89.
Bill Mike Runyon, who coached Paintsville to the Sweet Sixteen basketball title in 1996, said the Tigers' baseball crown was the bigger achievement. "If you look at the numbers of the two sports, it's probably more difficult to win in baseball," Runyon said. "In basketball, if you've got five or six good players, you've got a chance. In baseball, you've gotta have 12 pretty good ones, and that's hard to come by at a small school."
Runyon played baseball for Adkins, and was his assistant coach for 26 years. "Charlie was a baseball guy through and through," Runyon said. "But he was also the kind of coach who taught life lessons. He used baseball as an avenue to teach kids what they would face later in life."
Adkins was no-nonsense when it came to baseball. Once in Florida during spring break, the team left the baseballs at the motel. While somebody went to get them, Adkins had his players loosen up by tossing around oranges.
Adkins' most accomplished player was Johnnie LeMaster, who made it to the majors with the San Francisco Giants. He also had a talented pitcher in John Pelphrey, better known as 1987's Mr. Basketball and now hoops coach at Arkansas.
An interesting footnote to Adkins' career: He got his coaching start at Johnson Central in 1969, but was fired after his first season. "The superintendent said we played too many games, and the principal said I didn't show enough interest," Adkins told me a few years ago. So he went across town and built Paintsville into a baseball power.
"This town lost a legend," Runyon said this week.
■ West Jessamine Coach Jody Hamilton notched his 700th career win this week, but it was bittersweet. His mom, Delcie Hamilton, died last week, two days after she and her husband, Carl, celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary. Delcie was an avid baseball fan. ''She never missed a game when I was playing," Hamilton said. "And the thing is, and I tell all my kids this, my mom was never concerned how I did. She just wanted to know if we won. She knew baseball wasn't about what you did as an individual; it was about how your team did." Delcie would be proud of this West Jessamine team, which won its first 13 games before suffering its first loss. The Colts, No. 4 in the state, are led by eight seniors who have committed to play college ball: Louie Helmburg (Marshall); Noah Smallwood and Bud Morton (Morehead); Alex Lester and Tyler West (Wabash Valley); Kyle Mefford (Pikeville); Gus Sherrow (John A. Logan), and Tre Pollard (St. Catharine). Hamilton, who won a state title at Boyd County in 2001, said a key to West Jessamine getting to the state tournament for the first time is "staying on an even keel. Just play every day, and don't get too high or too low." Helmburg, a standout catcher whom Hamilton considers a Mr. Baseball candidate, has one goal in mind: to end the season at Applebee's Park jumping on his teammates to celebrate a state title. "I just want that dog pile," he said with a smile.
■ Henry Clay's baseball team got a couple of no-hit pitching performances this week, but the Blue Devils only got a split. On Monday, senior left-hander Nolan Fernandez threw a seven-inning no-hitter, but Henry Clay lost to No. 5 Tates Creek 1-0. The Commodores got a run in the sixth on three errors. On Wednesday, Devils sophomore lefty Clay Wallace made his first varsity start and threw a five-inning no-hitter in a 12-0 win over Sayre.
■ Daviess County beat Owensboro Catholic 12-11 last week thanks to a remarkable comeback. The Panthers trailed 11-3 going into the bottom of the seventh. But Daviess County got five hits, five walks and a hit batsman to score nine runs as Owensboro Catholic never recorded an out. Junior catcher Austin Edge had two hits in the rally, including the game-winner.
■ Moore junior Jalen Miller tied a state record by hitting four home runs in a 16-10 loss to Model last week. Jordan White of Grayson County hit four homers against Whitesville Trinity in 2008, and Bryan Morrow of Southwestern had four against Pulaski County in 1994.
■ Morehead State has two terrific hitters in Drew Lee of Montgomery County and J.D. Ashbrook of Harrison County. Lee is second in NCAA Division I in RBI (61 in 39 games), and ninth in homers (15). Ashbrook is third in homers (17) and fifth in batting average (.460). The Eagles lead the nation in homers (87), and are 12th in batting average (.343).
■ Clark County softball player Kayla Jones has two grand slams this spring — against Shelby Valley and Paris — giving her a state-record five in her career. The senior third baseman is batting .308 this year with four homers and 17 RBI.
■ Woodford County grad Abbey Stepp, a sophomore at Volunteer State in Tennessee, is the most productive run producer in junior college softball. She leads the nation with 81 RBI (in 48 games). Her .532 batting average is fourth best, and her 13 homers rank sixth.
■ Taylor County eighth-grader Karissa Mings sees double duty for the Lady Cardinals softball teams. In the varsity game at Adair County this week, Mings hit a three-run homer and a double; in the junior varsity game she hit a pair of homers and a double. Mings also pitches for Taylor County.
■ Two months after Caleb Ervin won the 140-pound state wrestling title to cap a 56-0 season, the Union County junior is in a Louisville hospital recovering from burns suffered in a spring break accident. Tim Ervin, Caleb's uncle and a Union County coach, said his nephew's wrestling career is the least of the family's worries. "We just want to get him home and healthy." Tim said his nephew was cleaning out a barnyard when he "made a bad mistake" with a gas fire. He suffered second- and third-degree burns, the most serious on his shoulder and arm. "His skin is healing pretty good and he may not need skin grafts," Tim said. "Caleb's a strong-minded kid. I believe it'll be hard to keep him off the mat even after this." Tim said his grandfather and great-grandfather both died in gas fires, and that Caleb's dad Robert suffered serious burns in a motorcycle accident when the gas tank exploded. "It's weird," Tim said. "It's like fire follows our family around." Caleb's accident is the second setback Union County's program has suffered in the last year. Timmy McKenney, a straight-A student who placed fifth in the state tournament as a sophomore, died from a brain aneurysm while working out last summer.
■ Thirteen boys and 12 girls were selected for the Kentucky All-Stars basketball teams, but boys' coach Mike Listerman said every player invited to the tryouts — 40 boys and 40 girls — should consider themselves all-stars. "These kids really are our top 40, and whether they made the final cut doesn't matter. They're still Kentucky All-Stars." There are about 2,500 boys and 2,500 girls playing varsity basketball in Kentucky, so being among the top 40 is exclusive company. Considering the number of big-name players who didn't come to the tryouts, Listerman would like to see the Kentucky-Indiana all-star series regain its status as a big deal among Kentucky high school kids, and he's going to promote it as such in the weeks leading up to the all-star games in June.
■ Former Bryan Station star Bobby "Unas" Washington has been named head coach at Grambling, where he served as interim coach this season. Grambling won only seven games, but the Tigers made it to the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament and upset regular-season champ Jackson State in the opening round. Unas played for his dad, Bobby Washington, at Bryan Station (Class of 1995).
■ Transylvania has picked up two players who helped their teams reach the Sweet Sixteen — Ashley Hatfield of state champ Shelby Valley, and Tate Cox of Knott Central. Hatfield, a 6-foot-6 swing man, averaged 15 points and seven rebounds. Cox, a 6-1 guard, averaged 14 points and four rebounds.
■ Colt Barnhill, who led East Carter to the Sweet Sixteen last month and was selected to the Kentucky All-Stars team this week, told the Ashland Daily Independent that he will take a recruiting visit to Northern Kentucky University. The 6-7 senior is also drawing interest from Jacksonville, Lipscomb, and Motlow State in Tennessee.
■ Lexington Catholic's Tanner Peurach, who made the Kentucky All-Stars, is looking at Bellarmine, Transylvania, Erskine, and EKU, according to Knights Coach Brandon Salsman.
■ East Jessamine's Liz Miller has received an academic scholarship to Centre where she will also play soccer and basketball.
■ Jeffersontown's Domonique Smith will play hoops at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo.
■ Madisen Webb, who averaged 15 points for Scott County's girls' Sweet Sixteen runners-up, signed with South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg.
■ Former Tates Creek swimmer Kelsey Floyd was named female rookie athlete of the year at Tennessee. Floyd also made first-team All-SEC, and collected four All-America certificates at the NCAA championships. Her best finish was swimming butterfly for the Lady Vols' SEC champion and NCAA runner-up 200-yard medley relay.