When high school baseball's postseason starts Monday with district tournaments across the state, one thing's for certain: pitching will prevail.
Or will it?
Pleasure Ridge Park Coach Bill Miller, the ultimate authority with a state-record 1,039 victories and five state titles, agrees with the baseball axiom that good pitching will always stop good hitting. But what if there's a scarcity of the former?
"The quality of pitching that I've seen hasn't been that great," Miller said. "There aren't many guys shoving it like we've seen in the past. And I think that opens up (the playoffs) to more teams. It makes hitting and defense more important."
PRP's success has been built on pitching and defense. "That's always been our moniker," Miller said. "That's why we've been more consistent than teams that just live on hitting. Year in, year out, we've had pretty good pitching and pretty good defense, and then manufactured runs."
PRP won the state title last year, but the Panthers graduated eight starters and three top pitchers. But never count them out. "We'll roll it out there and compete," Miller said.
■ Jacob Hamilton, who made a memorable debut as an eighth-grade pitcher for Pikeville in the 2010 state baseball tournament, is now a senior left-hander reaching career milestones. Hamilton, who has signed with Kentucky, had shoulder problems this spring, but he's back on the mound and regaining his form.
Last week he became only the 11th pitcher in state history to ring up 400 career strikeouts. Over the last five years he's 29-6 with four saves and a 1.04 earned-run average in 2312⁄3 innings. He's thrown four no-hitters and one perfect game. Hamilton gave a hint of things to come when, as an eighth-grader, he came on in relief to secure Pikeville's victory over Perry Central in the first round of the state tournament. He started and got the win against Greenup County in the quarterfinals. He also helped Pikeville get to the 2012 state tournament.
■ It's been an eventful 2014 for Shelby County baseball coach Bart Roettger. In late February, he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and underwent successful surgery (zero margins and the biopsy came back negative). In mid-April, Roettger's father-in-law, Dr. David Liebschutz of Danville, died after a long battle with brain cancer. Last week, Roettger's wife, Beth, gave birth to their second child, Max. (He has a 3-year-old brother named Davis.) "It's been a crazy spring to say the least," Roettger said. "We have definitely hit all the emotions one can feel." Roettger, who was an assistant on Paul Laurence Dunbar's 2003 and 2007 state championship teams, credited his Shelby County assistants, Devin Hicks and Mike Moore, for stepping in and shouldering the load when family issues kept him away. "They're a huge reason for our success this season," Roettger said. The Rockets (21-6) are led by senior shortstop/pitcher Kipp Moore, who has signed with Murray State. Moore is hitting .464 with 35 runs and 23 RBI. He recently threw back-to-back five-inning no-hitters.
The first was a perfect game in a 10-0 win over Newport Central Catholic, the second was an eight-strikeout no-no in a 13-0 win over Owen County. "He has the best baseball IQ I've ever coached," Roettger said of Moore. "He'll go down as one of the best to play at Shelby County."
■ Harrison County beat Nicholas County last week, giving the Thorobreds their 34th consecutive 20-win season under Mac Whitaker. It was Whitaker's 1,007th career victory, moving him up to No. 2 on the state's all-time wins list. Harrison County beat Franklin County and Campbell County this week to push Whitaker's total to 1,009. Bill Miller of Pleasure Ridge Park has 1,037 wins.
■ If you want to keep up with the local high school baseball playoffs, check out 11thregionsports.com. Gary Ball and Mike Ritchie will be covering the 42nd District at Henry Clay and the 43rd District at Lafayette next week, and the 11th Region Tournament at Western Hills in two weeks.
■ East Jessamine senior Haylee Hamm, who was hit in the face by a line drive and had surgery to repair the damage, pitched in a game for the first time in a month this week. She worked four innings of shutout relief in an 8-1 victory over Tates Creek on Monday night. Haylee started against Bourbon County on Tuesday night and pitched a complete game in a 3-0 win. "She's a tough kid and doesn't really seem affected by the accident," said her dad and East Jessamine coach Tom Hamm. "Obviously, I'm very proud of her."
■ Prestonsburg softball pitcher Haley Howell has posted impressive numbers on the field and in the classroom. A three-year starter on the mound, she has more than 350 career strikeouts, and she's hitting .480 this season. Haley, daughter of Blackcats Coach Jamie Howell, is one of eight students in Floyd County who graduated last week from Big Sandy Community and Technical College with an associate degree, three weeks before her high school graduation. A 4.0 student, she has been awarded a WYMT Mountain Classic scholarship and a Kentucky Farm Bureau Scholarship.
■ Ryan Fucci (Tates Creek) has committed to play baseball at Wright State. Fucci began his college career at Western Kentucky but left after his freshman year to give basketball a try at Gulf Coast State College in Florida. He went back to baseball and played outfield at Northwest Florida State this year.
■ Defending titlist Henry Clay plays Lexington Catholic in the Kentucky Lacrosse Association championship Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Bryan Station. Henry Clay beat the Knights in last year's finals to cap an undefeated season. There will be an all-star game Saturday at 5:30 featuring players from teams around the state.
■ Madison Southern running back Damien Harris and Lexington Catholic quarterback Reese Ryan are among five Kentucky high school seniors-to-be nominated for the U.S. Army Bowl on Jan. 3, 2015. Warren East linebacker Eli Brown, who has committed to UK, Caldwell County quarterback Elijah Sindelar and Warren Central linebacker Emmitt Smith are also among the 400 players nominated nationwide. Ninety will be picked to play in the all-star game.
■ Jordan Carter, an assistant at Gulf Coast State College in Florida the last three years, is the new boys' basketball coach at Greenwood. Carter is a 2006 graduate of Bowling Green and is a former Purples assistant.
■ Brad Mefford is the new girls' basketball coach at Fern Creek. Mefford, who played at Western Hills, formerly coached boys' basketball at Frankfort and Woodford County. He's been out of coaching the past five years.
■ Dunbar senior Brooke Todd, 11th Region player of the year, has signed with Morehead State, where her dad, Greg Todd, is the new coach. Brooke, a 6-foot-2 post player, averaged 13.1 points, 12.8 rebounds and six blocked shots this season.
■ Tony Kays, who has guided Anderson County's girls to the Sweet Sixteen three of the last five years, is stepping down. Kays led the Bearcats to 303 victories in 15 seasons as coach.
■ Clark County senior Lexxus Graham, who helped the Cardinals reach the final four of the Sweet Sixteen this year, signed with Campbellsville. Graham, daughter of Clark County Coach Robbie Graham, tied a state tournament record by making seven three-pointers in the Cards' semifinal loss to Elizabethtown.
■ Scott Latham and Josh Henderson are the new basketball coaches at Garrard County. Latham, an assistant at Lexington Catholic the past two seasons, will take over the Golden Lions girls' program. Henderson will take over the boys' program. He was at Meade County last season and had a 9-20 record. Before that he was an assistant at LaRue County.
■ David Clark, who retired from basketball coaching in 2011 after 29 years and 239 victories, is returning for a second stint as girls' coach at Franklin-Simpson. Clark coached the Lady Cats from 1998-2002 and had a record of 65-72. He coached Franklin-Simpson's boys from 2003-11 and went 174-98.
■ Allen County-Scottsville's Morgan Rich, who committed to Kentucky last week, averaged 20.5 points and seven rebounds last season. She made the Herald-Leader's all-state second team.
The 5-11 junior became Allen County-Scottsville's all-time top scorer (1,754 points) in a game against Monroe County in early February. She suffered a season-ending ACL injury in that same game. Rich should be on the court again by the time Allen County-Scottsville plays in Lexington Catholic's Republic Bank Classic the week before Christmas.
■ Tereka Guyn, who averaged 16.9 points and 11.3 rebounds for Scott County last season, signed with Iowa Western Community College.