It's been a mantra espoused by local coaches for years, if not decades: "The 43rd District is the toughest baseball district in the state."
No bragging. Just fact.
There are 64 districts in the state, and only a dozen or so have more than four schools. The 43rd is one of those that has five — Lafayette, Lexington Catholic, Lexington Christian Academy, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek — and every one of them has won at least one state title.
Lafayette, Lexington Catholic and Tates Creek own three championships apiece. Dunbar has two, and LCA has one. That gives the 43rd District 12 state titles, all of them coming in the last 36 years. No other district can come close to matching that kind of success.
The only other district that has three schools with state titles is the 9th, where Daviess County, Owensboro and Owensboro Catholic have won it all. Owensboro has six titles. The other two have one apiece. Apollo, the fourth school in the 9th, hasn't won a state championship.
Louisville's 26th District has only two schools — Male and St. Xavier — and both have won championships, but none since 1981.
Northern Kentucky has two districts with multiple champs: The 35th, which includes Covington Catholic and Holmes with one title each; and the 36th, which includes Newport and Newport Central Catholic, but neither has won a championship since 1956.
Two other districts with two championship programs each are the 17th (Central Hardin and Elizabethtown) and the 64th (Ashland Blazer and Boyd County).
The 11th Region, which includes the 43rd District, has 15 state titles, counting one each by Henry Clay, Madison Central and Woodford County. Only one other region has more than eight championships. That's the 7th, which has 12. Manual has six of those, none in the last 50 years.
■ I know it's part of the game, but I've grown weary of fans (parents) heckling baseball umpires. I know a lot of the men in blue who work around here, and I can vouch for them as honorable guys who do their best calling balls and strikes and close plays at first base. The umps are not out to cheat your team or your kid. They have a better view of the plate and the bases than you do. They know the rules better than you do. They don't have a vested interest in the outcome like you do. Umpires expect to get razzed, and they can laugh off wisecracks about their eyesight. But when fans (parents) make it personal and vitriolic, that's crossing the line.
■ The biggest upset in district baseball was East Jessamine's 2-1 semifinal victory over No. 7 Mercer County, which was state runner-up to Pleasure Ridge Park last year and to Central Hardin in 2011. "We kept saying all week there's no substitute for guts," East Coach Kevin Clary said. "They showed their guts and really got after it." The Jaguars trailed 1-0 going to the seventh, with their 7-8-9 batters coming up. Matt Williams started the rally with a single. With one out, pinch-hitter Jarred Jones reached on an error that enabled Williams to score the tying run. Sam Hall followed with an infield single. After Luke Thatcher was intentionally walked, Stephen Treadway delivered an RBI single to give his team the lead. Conner Lindsey pitched a complete game for East. He scattered five hits and had nine strikeouts. "He was absolutely electric for us," Clary said. "He was unbelievable."
■ The biggest upset in district softball was Owensboro's 4-3 semifinal victory over No. 7 Owensboro Catholic. The five-time state champ Lady Aces will miss the regional tournament for the first time in 18 years. Owensboro went into the playoffs 8-16. Owensboro Catholic was 22-7.
■ It was a good week for Wayne County's Bell siblings. Tanner Bell, a senior center fielder for the baseball Cardinals, made the 48th District's all-tournament team. His twin sister Tori, a third baseman for the softball Cards, also earned 48th District all-tournament honors, as did their sister, freshman catcher Taylor Bell.
■ Wes Wilson (Bryan Station) had a memorable night for the Class A Tampa Yankees in an 18-inning, 7-6 win over the Palm Beach Cardinals last week. Wilson caught the first 14 innings, then took the mound and pitched four scoreless innings of relief to get his first professional victory. Wilson is in his fourth year in the Yankees farm system.
■ Lee County senior Tristan Fraley has phenomenal numbers: He's hitting .623 with 12 doubles, six triples and three homers. He has 28 runs, 21 RBI and is 29-for-29 on stolen bases. The grandson of KHSAA basketball and softball official Yvon Allen, Fraley is primarily a catcher but also pitches and plays some middle infield.
■ Tyler Thacker, who played for his dad, Shawn Thacker, on Rowan County's back-to-back Sweet Sixteen teams in 2011 and 2012, will play college baseball at Lincoln Trail College in Illinois.
■ When Roy McKamey coached Hazard's boys to the Sweet Sixteen semifinals in 1986, he considered it a thrill of a lifetime. But McKamey got an even bigger thrill when his daughter won the state tennis title last Saturday. Michelle McKamey, a freshman at McCracken County, beat Meredith Laskey of Highlands 6-4, 6-1 in the finals at UK. Roy McKamey wasn't able to attend the state tennis tournament because of his health. He had a heart attack and bypass surgery seven years ago. He also has diabetes and high blood pressure. "If I watched my daughter play, my blood pressure would shoot up 40 points in 10 minutes," he said. "When I'm there in person, I live and die on each shot." McKamey's wife, Sherry, texted him regular updates about how Michelle was faring. "That was nerve-wracking in itself," he said. Michelle is a star in the classroom, too, as a straight-A student. McKamey last coached basketball in 1994 at Lone Oak when he led the Purple Flash to a school-record 28 wins.
■ According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Penny Reece, coach of defending state softball champion Greenwood, has been suspended indefinitely. A spokesman for Warren County schools would not give a reason for Reece's suspension, saying it does not comment on personnel issues. Greenwood is rated No. 2 in the state.
■ Scott County, which won the Class 6A state football title last fall, has added traditional power Cincinnati Elder to its schedule. Coach Jim McKee's Cardinals will play Elder at The Pit on Sept. 11, 2015, and host the Panthers on Sept. 9, 2016.
■ Jordan Amis, a 2010 graduate of Perry County Central, is the Commodores' new football coach at the age of 23. Amis was a Class of the Commonwealth quarterback at Perry Central and went on to star as a wide receiver at the University of Pikeville. Amis admitted "it's sort of intimidating" to be the youngest coach in the state, but it'll be easy to relate to his players. "They understand my terminology because I'm not that much older than them," he said. "And they grew up watching me at Perry Central. They know I always laid it on the line." Amis said playing for Dudley Hilton at Pikeville "did wonders" for him and probably helped him get the job. Amis hopes to put together a veteran staff that will help him learn all facets of being a head coach.
■ Maurice "Mo" Dixon, who formerly coached at Knott County Central and Hazard, and was an assistant at Lexington Catholic, is the new head coach at George Walton Comprehensive High School in Marietta, Ga. Dixon has been an assistant at Byrnes High, S.C., and before that was on Bob Sphire's staff at North Gwinnett, Ga.
■ Jason Howell, who's been out of football the last four years, will be the offensive coordinator under new Tates Creek coach Antoine Sims. Howell played high school football at Pikeville and was an assistant when the Panthers won state titles in the late 1980s. He was an assistant at Tates Creek for three years before leaving to become coach at Dunbar, where he had a two-year record of 3-19. He resigned after the 2009 season.
■ Tra Edwards, a point guard who helped Hopkinsville to three consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances, signed with Murray State.
■ Austin Crisp, a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged double figures for Fleming County's back-to-back 16th Region champs, signed with Alice Lloyd.
■ Bart Flener got double coverage in Saturday's Murray Ledger & Times. The sports section had a story about Calloway County basketball player Bailey Brown signing with Asbury on Friday morning. It was accompanied by a photo that included Flener, Asbury's coach. Saturday's sports section also carried a story about Flener being introduced as Murray High School's new boys' basketball coach Friday afternoon. "It was pretty funny," Flener said. "In one picture I'm wearing my Asbury gear at Bailey Brown's signing Friday morning. In the other picture I'm at the podium at Murray being introduced as the new coach Friday afternoon. Ironic."