Paul Laurence Dunbar baseball fans have had plenty to cheer about lately, with the Bulldogs on a 10-game winning streak that includes victories over Lexington Christian, Tates Creek and Louisville Trinity. But the most magical moment of May, and maybe of the entire season, came in a routine 8-0 win over Owen County on Tuesday.
It was senior night, and Dunbar Coach Larry Poynter wanted to reward senior Tyler Cress, the team manager, for his dedication, hard work and support of the Bulldogs the last four years.
Poynter came up with the perfect present. Just before the game, he handed Cress a Dunbar uniform and told him to suit up. "Just wearing it was cool," Cress said. The best was yet to come. In the sixth inning, Poynter told Cress to grab a bat and lead off. When he was announced as a pinch-hitter, his teammates went wild in the dugout and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. "That was neat," Cress admitted.
He was aggressive at the plate, fouling off three pitches to the delight of the fans, before finally drawing a walk. A passed ball and stolen base later, Cress was at third, hoping to score. He got his wish when the batter walked with the bases loaded.
Never miss a local story.
"You would've thought Tyler had hit a home run the way the team met him at the plate," Poynter said.
"Not everybody gets to fulfill their dreams, but he was able to fulfill one with us. This was one way we could give back to him after he's given so much to us. He takes our program to heart."
■ Defending 14th Region baseball champ Letcher Central has a strong 1-2 pitching punch in sophomore Max Hall and junior Jordan Short. Hall is 10-1 with 56 strikeouts in 63 innings and a 0.78 earned run average. Short, last year's region MVP, is 5-3 and has set a school record for career victories with 17. He also leads the team with a .354 batting average. Both excel in the classroom, too. Hall has a 4.26 GPA. Short has a 4.28 GPA and scored 27 on the ACT. "The great thing about both these guys is you only have to tell them something one time," Coach Bryan Dean said. "They understand that locating pitches and changing speeds is just as important as velocity."
■ Lafayette's softball team took a major hit when senior star Emily Kincaid was sidelined for the rest of the season after breaking a finger on her glove hand. She is scheduled to have surgery on Friday. Kincaid, an Eastern Kentucky University signee, had a 24-5 pitching record, with 170 strikeouts and a 1.08 ERA in 182 innings. She also hit .433 with six homers and 36 RBI. Lafayette takes a four-year, 48-game winning streak against Lexington competition into next week's district tournament.
■ Elizabethtown High School has named its baseball field after former coach Ron Myers, who led the Panthers to state titles in 1970 and 1975.
■ Franklin County baseball coach Deron McDonald got his 300th victory a couple of weeks ago. McDonald has led the Flyers to seven district titles and one region championship in 14 years. Franklin County reached the state final four in 2001.
■ Warren East junior Hunter Green threw a no-hitter and had 20 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over Edmonson County on Monday. Green has scholarship offers from Louisville, Kentucky and Western Kentucky, among others, according to the Bowling Green Daily News.
■ Harrison County's baseball team is 25-9, the 32nd season in a row the Thorobreds have won at least 20 games under Mac Whitaker.
■ Henry Clay retired the jerseys of two former baseball standouts and a current star on Tuesday: Jonathan Craycraft (Class of 2008), Corey Bays (2011) and Walker Buehler (2012). Craycraft is at Lipscomb after transferring from Murray State. Bays is a freshman at Murray. Buehler has signed with Vanderbilt.
■ Mike Reitz has retired as Harrison County boys' basketball coach, saying, "When it's time, it's time." He's been in the business 39 years, the last 33 as a head coach. He had two stints at Harrison County, and led the Thorobreds to three 10th Region titles (1991, '96, '97). He guided Maysville to the 1988 Sweet Sixteen. Reitz, who has 556 career wins, once had goals to coach 40 years and in 1,000 games, and get 600 victories. But, he said, he came to realize numbers weren't important. "Coaching is all about the relationships with your players, your peers, and all the friends you make along the way." Larry Kendall, Reitz's assistant, will succeed him.
■ Adam Fatkin, a 6-foot-7 senior who averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for Clark County's Sweet Sixteen quarterfinal team, signed with Rockhurst, an NCAA Division II school in Kansas City, Mo.
■ Henderson County hired Tyler Smithhart as its boys' basketball coach. Smithhart, a Henderson County graduate, played college ball at Transylvania. He was on Kerry Stovall's staff at Christian County when it won the 2011 state title. When Stovall stepped down after the championship season, Smithhart took over as head coach and had a 9-22 record this past season.
■ Jason Couch, who guided Eastern to two 7th Region boys' basketball titles in the last four years, is leaving the Eagles for Shelby County. In nine years at Eastern, Couch had a record of 203-86. He will try to revitalize a Shelby County program that has fallen on hard times since the school was split to create Martha Layne Collins High School two years ago.
■ Tyler Wesley, a 6-6 senior who averaged 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots in leading Oldham County to the Sweet Sixteen, will play college hoops at Centre.
■ Perry Central senior standout Jaysean Paige, who averaged 21 points this season, signed with The College of Southern Idaho, which won the national junior college title in 2011.
■ Dontel Rice of Holmes, the 9th Region player of the year, signed with Gulf Coast State College in Florida. Rice averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds as a senior.
■ Madison Central's John O'Bryan, who averaged nine points and three assists this season, signed with Rockford College in Illinois.
■ Mercer County hired Chris Pardue as its new football coach. Pardue was Campbellsville University's offensive coordinator the last four years. Before that, he was at Boyle County, where he was offensive coordinator for the Rebels' run of five consecutive state titles. Pardue took over as Boyle County coach when Chuck Smith left to become an assistant at UK. Pardue had a three-year record of 22-13.
■ Doug Preston is the new football coach at Franklin-Simpson, and Dee Spencer is the Wildcats' new boys' basketball coach. Preston's previous head coaching jobs include Paris, Rowan County and Bullitt East. He led the Chargers to a Class 4A runner-up finish in 2008. Spencer, a Franklin-Simpson grad, coached in Tennessee the last seven years.
■ Matt Couch, who passed for 3,034 yards in three years as Woodford County's quarterback, signed with Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Couch led the Jackets to their first winning season in four years last fall.
■ Evan Napier is the new football coach at Clay County. He'll succeed Kenny Roark, who died a few weeks ago. Napier was a star at Clay County and played at EKU. He was an assistant at Clay County the last six seasons.
■ Longtime Lynn Camp football coach David Mitchell has been fired, according to the Corbin Times Tribune. Mitchell, a Lynn Camp graduate, was the Wildcats' head coach for 34 years, highlighted by a trip to the Class A semifinals in 2003.
■ Former UK receiver Troy Hobbs, a football assistant under Bob Sphire at Lexington Catholic and North Gwinnett, Ga., for the past 10 years, is the new head coach at Shiloh in Snellville, Ga.
■ Sayre grad Ann Eason, a freshman at EKU, won the OVC's 5,000-meter championship last week. She ran a career-best 17:35.22, the fifth-fastest time in school history.
■ Tates Creek's William Hardin signed to play football at Lindsey Wilson, and Terrell Moore will wrestle and play football at Campbellsville.
■ Dunbar goalkeeper Jon Hurley will play soccer at The College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. Hurley was also a place-kicker for Dunbar's football team.
■ Angie Johnson, a basketball standout at Ashland Blazer in the late 1980s and a former Kittens assistant, has joined the women's staff at the University of Georgia.
■ Jordan Whitaker of Rockcastle County will play college golf at the University of the Cumberlands.
■ Tates Creek has five senior lacrosse players who will play the sport at Transylvania: Kaz Blackwell, Clay Douthat, Tre Downing, Ben Rogers and Evan Wright. Tates Creek plays North Oldham in the Division II state finals at Trinity on Friday.
■ Scott County grad Wyatt Ubellacker, a junior at MIT, is headed to the USA swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. Ubellacker qualified for the trials in the 50 freestyle, and is trying to qualify in the 100 free and 100 butterfly.