'Zack attack' a hit at Western Hills
Western Hills' baseball team has given its fans plenty of highlights this spring.
The Wolverines, led by senior star and Kentucky signee J.T. Riddle, have beaten archrival Franklin County twice, secured the top seed in the district, and climbed into the top 20 in the state ratings. But the sweetest moment came Monday night when Zack Boyson started in left field and played half an inning against Owen County.
Boyson has been part of the Western Hills program for three years, but physical and mental disadvantages kept the 5-foot junior from ever getting in a game. Until Monday, when Boyson's smile lit up a gray, cloudy evening.
"It was a thrill for Zack and for all of us," said first-year coach Seth Knight.
Boyson, who is moving with his dad from Frankfort after this school year, said he "loves baseball" and "loves Western Hills."
"Zack is amazing," Knight said. "He's so enthusiastic about life, and is always positive and enthusiastic. He keeps our team grounded, and really helps motivate the team. He wants to be here, have a uniform and hang out with the guys. They all love him and take care of him."
After each Western Hills home victory, the Wolverines celebrate with a "Zack Attack." Boyson goes to the plate and Knight serves up an underhanded pitch to hit. Boyson, followed by his teammates, circles the bases and slides home. The public address announcer gives him his props and fans cheer.
"Zack is a true, feel-good baseball story," Knight said.
■ Harrison County baseball coach Mac Whitaker, like Old Man River, just keeps rolling along. He became only the fourth coach in state history to win 900 games when his Thorobreds beat Bishop Brossart this week. "You get so old they just start adding up," Whitaker said with a laugh. In his 33rd season at Harrison County, Whitaker long ago built the Breds into a state power. They own three state titles (1993, '97, '98), been runners-up twice (1984, '87), and have posted 30 consecutive 20-win seasons. "It's really humbling, especially to be at the same school for so many years in a community that's been so good to me, and loves and supports baseball the way it does," Whitaker said. "I've been very, very blessed." Only Green County's Larry Gumm (1,006), Madison Central's Don Richardson (952) and Pleasure Ridge Park's Bill Miller (911) have more wins. Gumm and Richardson are retired. Harrison County could make a run at a fourth title this spring. "We've got a pretty good team," Whitaker said, noting that seven seniors and nine juniors give him more experience than usual. Harrison County got a boost when star outfielder Malcolm Thomas returned recently from a knee injury. The Breds' pitching staff is anchored by Logan Dailey.
■ Boyle County Coach David Camic got his 500th victory when the Rebels beat Taylor County last week. Camic is in his 11th season with the Rebels. He previously coached Danville for nine years. His overall record is 500-156-1 (76 percent).
■ South Laurel's Emily Gaines, a UK signee and Miss Softball candidate, is taking a swing at all kinds of state records. She is already in the books for most career hits (326) and doubles (98), and in 2008 set single-season marks for hits (81) and doubles (27). Gaines currently has a 42-game hitting streak, one shy of tying the state record. "Emily has a great attitude and is very dedicated," Coach Kaye Smith said. "She is always focused on doing her best and continues to work hard to improve her skills." Gaines is hitting .663 (61-for-92) this season, including 21 doubles, 10 homers, 48 RBI and 34 runs. She has a career batting average of .522, with 221 runs, 185 RBI and 17 homers. She has a 57-9 record as a pitcher, with 411 strikeouts and a 1.12 earned run average.
■ Wolfe County senior second baseman and leadoff man Zach Sallie was hit by a pitch against Morgan County this week. It was the 45th time in his career he's been hit, setting a state record.
■ Madison Central honored the memory of former player Daniel Rector last Friday. Rector, who captained the Indians' 2004 team, died in August, 2008. His mom Pam threw out the first pitch before the game against Western Hills, and a tree was planted in his memory at Don Richardson Field. "Daniel was an example of what it meant to be an Indian," Coach Steve Roof said. "Not only was he a great teammate, but he was dedicated, worked hard and absolutely loved the game."
■ It wasn't quite like Moses parting the Red Sea, but two weekends ago Paris baseball coach Cary Barr watched five-foot deep flood waters recede from the Greyhounds' field on Monday (May 3) between 8 a.m. and noon. Paris played host to St. Patrick later that afternoon. "It was amazing," Barr said. "The flood carried part of our infield to our outfield, but everything else was in pretty good shape."
■ Brothers Chris and Jonathan Craycraft, former baseball stars at Henry Clay, are doing well at Murray State. Chris was named OVC pitcher of the week for his complete-game victory over EKU. Chris, a senior righthander, is 6-3 this year, and has 21 career wins. Jonathan, a sophomore infielder, is batting .301 with 20 runs. He hit .337 as a freshman.
■ Former Henry Clay outfielder Chris Piascik will receive a commission as a Second Lieutenant and graduate from the United States Air Force Academy on May 26. He will begin pilot training later this year.
■ Bryan Station grad Wes Wilson, a junior catcher at Indiana, had two hits and an RBI in the Hoosiers' 18-17 win over UK on Tuesday. Wilson has seen backup duty for IU this season, with 10 hits in 32 at-bats.
■ Estill County shortstop/pitcher Blake Crowe and shortstop/outfielder Taylor Fagin signed with Berea.
■ The All "A" Classic baseball tournament, postponed by rain two weeks ago, is Sunday at Memorial Sports Complex in Nicholasville. Two fields will be used. Upper-bracket: DeSales vs. Bishop Brossart, 9 a.m.; Russellville vs. Middlesboro, 11. Lower bracket: Ballard Memorial vs. Whitefield, 9; Lexington Christian vs. Pikeville, 11. Semifinals, 1:30. Finals at 4. LCA is defending champ.
■ Ballard Memorial flattened Fulton County 30-0 in a five-inning baseball game last week. Fulton County made nine errors.
■ Reidland won the All "A" Classic softball title last weekend in Jeffersontown, beating Green County 4-0 in the finals behind the pitching of tournament MVP Cassee Layne. Reidland also won the All "A" in 2006, '07 and '08.
■ A couple of weeks after the fact, North Laurel realized it became the first fast-pitch softball team to win 500 games when it beat Southwestern last month. North Laurel's Megan Taylor had 18 strikeouts and threw a no-hitter in the victory.
■ Rajon Rondo's amazing triple-double (29 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists) for the Celtics against the Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs was a reminder that he averaged a triple-double (29.5 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in his junior season at Louisville Eastern.
■ Clay County boys' basketball coach Kevin Spurlock is leaving the Tigers for Sheldon Clark. Spurlock had three 20-win seasons in four years at Clay County. Before that he led Hazard to the 2004 All "A" Classic title, and the 2006 Sweet Sixteen.
■ Jim Hicks is the new boys' coach at Grant County. He was at Bath County the last three years and posted a record of 53-23. He has also coached at Greenup County and Owsley County.
■ Bryan Station's Alesha Prince (13 ppg) signed to play at Kaskaskia College in Illinois, and Whitney Blackwell (6 ppg) is headed to Midway.
■ Lafayette standout Mike Walker (14 ppg) joined teammate Domonique Hagans in signing with Southeastern Illinois.
■ Taylor Newsome, the all-time leading rebounder for state champ Shelby Valley, signed with Centre.
■ Donovan Johnson of Shelby County and Ian Chiles of Ballard, who shone in the Sweet Sixteen, signed with Wabash Valley (Ill.)
■ Lafayette quarterback Brett Durbin, who threw for more than 1,000 yards last fall, has committed to Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. Durbin, who also plays baseball for Lafayette, has been nominated for the Tommy Bell Award, which goes to an outstanding student-athlete in Lexington. Brett's dad Gary won the Tommy Bell Award for athletics in 1980 when he was a star receiver for Lafayette.
■ Transylvania freshman Hunter Frazier, an LCA grad, won the Heartland Conference golf tournament and led Brian Lane's Pioneers to their fourth consecutive team title. Transy had the top four finishers. Clark County grad Matthew Martin tied for second with teammate Justin Tereshko, followed by Stephen Montgomery. The Pioneers are competing in the NCAA Division III championships in Hershey, Pa., this week.