Before Lexington Christian Academy's first playoff game last week, Eagles Coach Keith Galloway mentioned how "freaky" and "unpredictable" baseball's post-season can be.
That's putting it mildy.
Most of the teams rated in the final regular-season poll have been bumped from the chase to Applebee's Park for the state tournament. Going into Thursday's games, 16 of the top 25 teams have been eliminated, and two more will bite the dust because they're matched against other rated teams in region finals.
No. 1 and defending champ Lexington Catholic was KO'd in the first game of the district. No. 2 Pleasure Ridge Park lost in the first round of the region on a bases-loaded walk. No. 3 Eastern was shut out for the first time this year in its region opener. No. 5 St. Xavier got blanked 1-0 by Trinity star Corey Littrell in the first round of the region.
Never miss a local story.
■ The 11th Region tournament reaffirmed my belief that the most exciting play in baseball comes when outfielders throw out runners at the plate. Tates Creek center fielder Ryan Fucci gunned down Western Hills' Jordan Barrass, who tried to score from second on a single. Franklin County left fielder Trey Willis did the same to Madison Central's Austin Hunt. It was nice to see Henry Clay center fielder Matt Cox make the all-tournament team even though he had only one hit in three games. Cox was honored for his defense, specifically his leaping, reach-over-the-fence snag that robbed Western Hills' J.T. Riddle of a game-tying home run.
■ LCA may not have the best overall hitting or best overall pitching in the state tournament, but it will have the best team speed. The top half of the Eagles' order is especially fleet — Lucas Witt, Evan Stephens, Steven Hoagland, Clay Mossbarger and Michael Lyon. They put pressure on opposing pitchers and fielders, and they cover a lot of ground on defense. Is this the fastest team Galloway has ever had at LCA? "Oh yeah, by far," he said. "We've got a lot of guys who can create havoc out there with their speed."
■ LCA will have a 12-day layoff between its region win and its first-round game in the state tournament. How will the Eagles stay sharp? Galloway said they'll have intrasquad scrimmages, but he'll also give his players some days off to ease their aches and pains. In the past there was a semi-state round of playoffs between the region and state, but that was scrapped for a new 16-team state tournament this year. "I liked the old way," Galloway said, "I thought it was a neat thing to have a best two-out-of-three (semi-state). I think that appealed to baseball purists."
■ Tates Creek senior pitcher/infielder Trevor Gott has been named Gatorade's player of the year in Kentucky. Gott, who has signed with UK, had a 6-1 pitching record, with 81 strikeouts and 18 walks in 52 innings. He had given up only one earned run this season before losing to Western Hills in the region. Gott batted .348.
■ Lafayette pitcher Brent Cobb signed with EKU. The senior right-hander went 6-3 this season with one save, and he had 46 K's in 45 innings.
■ Fourteen of the top 25 fast-pitch softball teams are still alive going into Thursday night's region play. No. 2 Ballard and No. 4 Lafayette are the only top 10 teams eliminated so far.
■ The day after Apollo lost in the 3rd Region baseball tournament, longtime Eagles coach Bob Mantooth made the trip from Owensboro to Frankfort to watch the 11th Region. He was especially interested in the Henry Clay-Western Hills semifinal at Franklin County. Henry Clay first-year coach Jordan Tarrence and assistants Blake Warren and Matt Jones played for Mantooth at Apollo. Mantooth had a connection to Western Hills' players Jordan and Ryan Barrass. Their father, Scott Barrass, played on Mantooth's first Apollo team in the 1980s. Tarrence's girlfriend, Jodi Tanner, is a good friend of Mantooth's daughter Kara. They made the trip together from Owensboro, and stayed to watch Henry Clay's loss to Lexington Christian in the finals. Tarrence, who also served as an assistant coach at Apollo, said "98 percent" of what he knows about baseball he learned from Mantooth, who has won more than 700 games.
■ Breckinridge County's upset of No. 11 Apollo in the 3rd Region was built on the pitching and hitting of Tate Glasscock. The senior right-hander had eight strikeouts in the 4-2 victory. He also went 3-for-4 at the plate, including an RBI double in the seventh that broke a 2-2 tie. Glasscock. who will be a preferred walk-on at WKU, struck out 90 in 54 innings, and he hit .446 with 29 RBI this season.
■ Lone Oak, whose football team reached the state finals two of the past three years, is making noise in baseball. The Purple Flash won the 1st Region for the first time in 24 years by beating Murray in Wednesday's title game. Lone Oak will play LCA in the first round of the state tournament at Applebee's Park on June 15.
■ Warren Central took the 4th Region baseball title for the first time since 2003 by mercy-ruling defending champ Russell County 11-1. The Dragons will play the 7th Region winner — either No. 11 Trinity or No. 16 Male — in the first round of the state tournament.
■ Shelby County's baseball team has had two walk-off wins this post-season. In the district finals, Anderson County tied the Rockets in the top of the seventh, John Hunter hit a game-wining homer for Shelby County. In the region semifinals, North Oldham took a one-run lead in the top of the seventh, but the Rockets rallied for the victory on James Wright's bases-loaded single.
■ When L.W. Barnes, an Anderson County grad, was hired as the Bearcats' baseball coach in 1999, they had not won a game in the region tournament in 16 years. Since 2000, Anderson County has reached the region finals eight times, including Thursday night's showdown with 8th Region rival Shelby County. The Bearcats have won the region four times under Barnes, including in 2008 and '09.
■ Danville grad Rich Witten helped Coastal Carolina win the Big South Tournament. He went 2-for-3 with a double and homer in the championship game after going 4-for-4 with three doubles in the semifinals. Coastal Carolina is 51-7 and ranked fourth in the nation heading into the NCAA Tournament. Witten is a redshirt sophomore infielder/pitcher.
■ Greg Gumm has resigned as North Hardin baseball coach. He had a 418-308 record in 20 years and won five region titles. The Trojans were state runners-up to Harrison County in 1997.
■ Channing Fugate, Breathitt County's star running back who graduated early so he could enroll at Tennessee in January, got this mention on Vol Nation's recruiting site: "Perhaps the most intriguing player in this class due to his versatility and surprising speed and quickness. He has the makings of someone who can tote the rock (like) Jacob Hester at LSU or even Toby Gerhart at Stanford. Most likely, Fugate's future lies somewhere other than tailback."
■ The 2010 King of the Bluegrass basketball tournament will include Boone County, Bullitt East, Bowling Green, Christian County, Warren Central and the new Collins High School in Shelby County. The KOB, hosted by Fairdale, will also have Eastern, Iroquois, Male, Pleasure Ridge Park and Trinity. Four out-of-state teams complete the field: Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, which features Rex Chapman's son Zeke; Madison (Ala.), Pearl (Miss.) and Sacramento (Calif.). The KOB will be Dec. 17-22.
■ Jackson Davis, who started as a 6-foot-7 eighth-grader on Lafayette's 11th Region runner-up basketball team, is regarded as one of the top players in his age group. The son of former UK player Jonathan Davis, Jackson is in Greensboro, N.C., this weekend at a camp for top freshmen-to-be. Last month he attended a Nike Camp in Houston for 50 of the top rising freshmen. In July, Jackson will attend a camp at the Chicago Bulls' facility for some of the nation's top freshmen.
■ Shelby County is naming its gym after former star Mike Casey, who died last year. A plaque will be placed in the lobby of the high school proclaiming it Mike Casey Gymnasium. He led Shelby County to the 1966 state title and was chosen Mr. Basketball. He went on to star at UK.
■ Former Jackson County and UK basketball player Sarah Elliott is the new girls' coach at Lawrence County. She had been an assistant at Sheldon Clark.
■ Carter Adams is the new girls' coach at Clinton County. He had been an assistant to his dad Tommy at Hart County.
■ Carroll County basketball standout Will Yager has committed to play at Thomas More College.