FRANKFORT — Top-ranked Tates Creek is rolling through the baseball playoffs as if it were raking its way through batting practice.
The Commodores won their third postseason game in a row in mercy-rule fashion by walloping host Western Hills 14-1 in the 11th Region semifinals Tuesday night.
Tates Creek's latest assault came after it whipped Lexington Catholic 10-0 in the 43rd District finals and Berea 18-2 in the first round of the regional tournament.
"We're just locked in right now," said Commodore sophomore outfielder Jaren Shelby, who has eight RBI in the playoffs, half of those coming on a grand slam against Western Hills.
"We're all executing right now. We're on a nice roll."
Coach Dom Fucci had the same assessment.
"The kids are really focused," he said. "They know it's the postseason and they're on their game.
"We're one game away from returning to the state tournament, and we'll have them ready to go."
Tates Creek will meet either No. 16 Scott County or No. 23 Madison Central in the finals at 7 p.m. Thursday.
As has been their recent habit, the Commodores jumped ahead early against Western Hills.
Luke Rouse led off the first with a walk and Tanner Hart singled. Devin Hairston drove in Rouse with a single.
That brought clean-up man Jordan Fucci to the plate. He crossed up the Wolverines by laying down a bunt that Western Hills' third baseman threw away, allowing two runs to score.
Blake Rose's sacrifice fly brought in Fucci. Matt Neal doubled and scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.
The Commodores built their lead to 8-1 after five before unloading in the sixth.
Fucci and Rose had RBI hits before Shelby hit his first career grand slam. It came with his brother JaVon, a freshman player at Kentucky, watching.
A smiling Jaren said he knew for a fact that JaVon never hit a post-season homer with the bases crammed.
Noah Stone had the luxury of pitching with a lead for Tates Creek. The senior righthander, who blanked Lexington Catholic in the district finals, ran his record to 7-1. He pitched all six innings, giving up three hits, striking out two and walking one.
Rose, a senior third baseman, said the Commodores' strong play lately is due to "keeping our level heads and understanding anybody can beat you on a given night," and a team-first attitude.
Going into the region finals, Rose said "there's no need to change anything. We're doing pretty well with what we're doing."
Western Hills Coach Eric Grubb agreed.
"(Tates Creek) just has good balance all the way through its lineup. They're a tough team to pitch around. They're well-coached, their defense is tremendous, they've got a lot of speed and good catching.
"They're postseason ready."
Tates Creek 14, Western Hills 1
Tates Creek 510 116—14 10 1
Western Hills 100 000— 1 2 3
Noah Stone and Max Sweet. Parker Jackson, Kyle Fisher (2), Kyle Stevens (6) and Jesse Howard. 2B—Matt Neal (TC). HR--Jaren Shelby (TC).
Records: Tates Creek 32-6-1; Western Hills 17-14.