Kentucky high school baseball has come a long way since the mid-1970s. Bob Mantooth and Bill Krumpelbeck have been part of that journey as two of the most successful coaches in state history.
Mantooth, in his 28th season at Apollo and 35th overall (he previously coached at Webster County), got his 800th career win last Friday. He's led Apollo to eight region titles and had a Mr. Baseball, Brad Wilkerson (1995).
Krumpelbeck, in his 35th season at Covington Catholic, notched his 800th victory last Saturday. He's led CovCath to nine region titles, a state championship (2002), and had a Mr. Baseball, Luke Maile (2009).
Both coaches remember how it was when they first got into coaching. Most schools treated baseball as an afterthought. Most coaches weren't really baseball guys, but rather volunteers from other sports. Aluminum bats were fairly new. Baseball players didn't lift weights. Most fields were rock-strewn patches of dirt. Indoor hitting facilities were non-existent. "We didn't even have an outdoor batting cage," Krumpelbeck said. The state tournament final four had no permanent home, but instead hopscotched around the state and was sometimes played on high school fields.
Today, it's a whole new game. Coaches are baseball guys. Shiny high school diamonds are just about everywhere, as are indoor hitting facilities. Players are in the weight room getting bigger and stronger. The state tournament is a 16-team showcase held annually in Lexington's pro ballpark.
"Everything is so much better," Mantooth said. "Facilities, coaching and, all in all, the players are better. People are just more serious about high school baseball."
Krumpelbeck agreed, although he said the Lexington and Louisville areas are still a step ahead of other places, including Northern Kentucky. "Some of the programs up here put a lot of time and effort into it, but it still doesn't compare to football or basketball."
Mantooth credits the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association for raising the sport's profile by starting a baseball poll, selecting All-State teams and Mr. Baseball and putting on all-star games.
Neither Mantooth nor Krumpelbeck, both of whom were inducted into the KHSBCA Hall of Fame in the late 1990s, got too wound up about reaching 800 victories.
"Bob probably feels like I do," Krumpelbeck said. "It was probably more of a big thing to get to 500 but, after that, you feel like you're getting old, and the numbers kind of pile up."
■ Wayne County pitcher Roger Brumley is averaging almost two strikeouts an inning. The senior right-hander is 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA and has 134 K's in 74 innings. He holds school records for wins (20), strikeouts (407) and innings pitched (216).
■ Kentucky Mr. Baseball winners Nathan Adcock (2006) and Ben Revere (2007) have seen time in the bigs this spring. Adcock, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound pitcher from North Hardin, made his major-league debut with the Kansas City Royals in late March. He's appeared in eight games so far. He's 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 17 innings. Revere, a Lexington Catholic graduate, was called up by the Minnesota Twins late last season and saw action. He's played in 11 games this spring. The speedy outfielder has struggled at the plate, batting .174 (4-for-23).
■ Lawrence County pitcher Chandler Shepherd, who has signed with UK, is 9-0 with a 0.63 ERA. In his career, he has 37 victories and 460 strikeouts, both numbers ranking fifth in the state record book.
■ The local high school baseball playoffs will be broadcast on the Web by 11thregionsports.com for the second year in a row. The 42nd and 43rd district tournaments are at Sayre and Lexington Catholic next week. The 11th Region Tournament will be played at Whitaker Bank Ballpark and Bryan Station.
■ Louisville Christian won the All "A" Classic baseball title at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Derby weekend. Christian had 39 hits and 35 runs in beating Hazard, Newport Central Catholic and Bishop Brossart. Mitch Wiley was tournament MVP. He threw a complete game in the finals, a 5-2 win over Brossart. In three games at the plate, Wiley had five hits, five runs and three RBI.
■ Pikeville's baseball team (31-2) has the best record in the state. Senior Sam Burton, who has signed with Walters State Junior College (Tenn.), and freshman left-hander Jacob Hamilton are both 8-0. Seniors Steven Layne (.488) and Clark Keene (.470) lead the Panthers in hitting.
■ Eastern Coach John Morris picked up his 300th career win when the Eagles beat North Oldham on Monday. His overall record is 300-79.
■ Lafayette catcher Tyler Messner will play college baseball at Asbury, where older brother Casey plays. Casey Messner was on Lexington Catholic's 2009 state championship team.
■ Henry Clay softball player Shandra Williams homered three times against Tates Creek last week, tying a state record. She also hit a home run the following night against Bryan Station.
■ Henry Clay honored former coach Bob Tripure by putting his name on its baseball stadium's Wall of Fame last Saturday, the day after he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. Tripure coached Blue Devils baseball for 22 years, and his teams won 558 games, including the 1973 state title. He is also the only coach to win state basketball championships at two schools. He led Henry Clay's girls to the state title in 1991 and Lexington Catholic's girls to the state title in 1999. Tripure's grandson Michael is a freshman baseball player at Henry Clay.
■ The KHSAA has penalized three baseball programs. Bell County must pay a $650 fine, forfeit five victories and go on probation for using an ineligible player. Bath County and Russell are on probation after a fight broke out during a game on May 7. Fourteen Bath County players and 13 Russell players face suspensions for their involvement.
■ Rockcastle County's Travis Carpenter (18 ppg) signed to play college basketball at Alice Lloyd.
■ The AAU boys' state basketball tournament is this weekend at the Kentucky Basketball Academy. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are Sunday.
■ Tates Creek All-City football player T.D. Jemison has been named an athlete of the year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Jemison is an offensive tackle and nose guard. Tates Creek's Will Sweet, a receiver/defensive back, will play college football at Hanover.
■ Bryan Station, Henry Clay and Paul Laurence Dunbar are all looking for new girls' basketball coaches. Karra Jackson, who revitalized Bryan Station's program over the last four years, is leaving to take over as coach at Oak Ridge (Tenn.). Justin Schommer has resigned after one season at Henry Clay. Amy Tilley coached one year at Dunbar before deciding to return to UK, where she'll be part of the women's program. Tilley worked in UK athletics before taking the Dunbar job.
■ Steve Wright, the only boys' basketball coach in South Laurel's 21-year history, is leaving for Pulaski Southwestern. "The easiest thing I ever did was take the job here (at South Laurel)," Wright said. "The hardest thing I ever did was leave." Wright, 54, had great success with the Cardinals, winning six region titles and the 2005 state championship. He also coached Laurel County to the Sweet Sixteen in his one year there before the school split into North and South. Wright, who has 576 career victories, said, "If you don't know when it's time to leave, you're gonna frustate yourself and a lot of people. I didn't want to hang around just to hang around."
■ Boys' state basketball champ Christian County will announce its new coach late Friday afternoon. Kerry Stovall resigned a few weeks after guiding the Colonels to the Sweet Sixteen title.
■ Girls' basketball coaching legend Roy Bowling has been fired by North Laurel. Bowling guided Laurel County to four state titles (1977, '78, '79, '87) and has 568 career victories. He had a 92-80 record in five years at North Laurel.
■ Gavin Dunagan, who led Wayne County to the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals, signed with Transylvania. Dunagan is Wayne County's all-time leader in points (2,818) and rebounds (1,509).
■ Demond Thomas is the new girls' basketball coach at Central Hardin. As a senior at Elizabethtown in 1990-91, Thomas was a basketball and football star and was named Kentucky's high school athlete of the year by The Associated Press. He's been an assistant boys' basketball and baseball coach at Central Hardin the last several years.
■ Centre College senior Chris Morris, a Mason County graduate, won the NCAA Division III golf title in Greensboro, N.C., last week. Morris shot 67-65-71-71—274 to win by four strokes. He finished third last year.