RICHMOND — Woodford County ace Clinton Hollon wasn't at his best, but he was still good enough to help the defending state champions slip by Lafayette 2-1 in the first round of the 11th Region tournament at Madison Central on Monday.
Hollon, a senior right-hander who's rated one of the top high school pitchers in the nation, admitted he was affected by facing Lafayette, where he played early in his career before transferring to Woodford County.
"The mental aspect of playing my old team ... this definitely wasn't the best I've felt this year," he said.
Hollon surrendered a season-high seven hits (all singles), struck out two and walked two. But he got the big outs when he needed them, and his defense came to the rescue a couple of times.
Woodford County got its runs in the fifth.
After Hollon's one-out single, Gage Beavers slapped a shot up the middle that hit the left foot of Lafayette pitcher Josh Dunn. The ball ricocheted past second baseman Graham Carmack and into right field.
A throwing error on the play allowed Thomas Hickman, a pinch runner for Hollon, to score. Beavers went to third on the play. Travis Bingham followed with a single to drive in Dalton Rose, running for Beavers, to make it 2-0.
"With one out, I just wanted to put the ball in play," Bingham said. "All it takes is a hard hit ball to get that run in, so I tried to relax and it worked out."
Lafayette answered with a run in the top of the sixth. Graham Carmack and Ben Eckert had back-to-back singles, and Justin Messner reached on an error to load the bases with one out.
Hollon struck out Matt Trimble, but he did it on a wild pitch and Carmack scampered home with a run.
After Hollon walked Alex Daniel to reload the bases, Hollon got an inning-ending groundout.
Lafayette threatened in the fourth, but Woodford County center fielder Brandon Varble threw out Lucas Williams at the plate when Williams tried to score from second on Trimble's hit.
Yellowjackets Coach Jeff Parrett agreed with Lafayette forcing the action.
"The coach has to try to score him in that situation," Parrett said. "It's a matter of us catching and throwing, catching and tagging. There was a whole lot of stuff going on, but we were able to make the play."
Langston said it was the Generals' game plan to "try to put the pressure on Woodford County" with aggressive baserunning. "But they made the plays when they had to."
Woodford County also got a defensive gem from third baseman Logan Parrett, who made a leaping stab of a line shot by Williams in the sixth.
"I was just pitching a lot to contact today instead of trying to get strikeouts, and my defense came through for me," said Hollon, who has signed with Kentucky but may go pro if he's drafted high enough next month.
Dunn threw a strong seven for Lafayette. The senior right-hander, who blanked Dunbar 1-0 in the district semifinals, gave up five hits, struck out two and didn't walk a batter for the second game in a row.
"I thought it'd be another Dunbar game, a pitchers' duel," Dunn said. "Woodford just made the plays when they needed to."
Woodford Co. 2, Lafayette 1
Lafayette 000 001 0—1 7 1
Woodford County 000 020 x—2 5 1
Clinton Hollon and Gage Beavers. Josh Dunn and Matt Trimble. 2B—Travis Bingham (WC)
Records: Lafayette 25-12; Woodford Co. 26-9.
At Madison Central
5:30 p.m: Madison So. vs. Tates Creek
8 p.m.: Woodford Co. vs. Madison Central-Scott Co. winner