In 2010, when the KHSAA expanded the state high school baseball tournament to a weeklong, 16-team event at Applebee's Park (now Whitaker Bank Ballpark) in Lexington, not everybody involved in the sport was thrilled.
A lot of people gave it a ringing endorsement, but Lawrence County baseball coach Travis Feltner considered it a death knell for smaller schools' state championship hopes.
Winning four games in six days would require a deeper pitching staff than when the playoffs were spread over a longer period, with a sectional (or semi-state) feeding into an eight-team state tournament, or a final four.
"I thought immediately it ruined things for smaller schools," Feltner said. "They no longer had a shot, absolutely no shot, at winning a state championship."
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After guiding Lawrence County to the state tournament in 2010 and '11, Feltner began researching and documenting how one-class baseball stacked the odds against smaller schools. He looked at it from all angles, including how many other states have only one class in baseball (Delaware is the only one); how travel distances wouldn't preclude manageable multi-class playoffs, and how baseball is similar to football in the number of athletes needed to field a competitive team. (Yet football is divided into six classes in Kentucky.)
Feltner's research showed that since 1973, one Class A school (Paintsville in 1990) has won a state baseball title. (Actually, Lexington Christian was Class A when it won the championship in 2005. LCA moved up to 2A in football in 2011.) There have been only three 2A schools to win it all during that period.
"When there was just a final four, every 10 years or so somebody from Eastern Kentucky might win the title," he said, citing East Carter in 1984, Paintsville in 1990 and Boyd County in 2001.
Feltner said he was familiar with those Paintsville and Boyd County teams, "and there's no way either one of them would stand a chance of winning it now."
Last September, Feltner submitted a proposal to the KHSAA that would divide the 253 schools that have baseball teams into four classes.
He talked to the "bluebloods" of high school baseball, including Pleasure Ridge Park's Bill Miller, the all-time winningest coach, with 1,058 victories and four state titles, and Feltner said they don't like the 16-team tournament either.
Miller said this week he preferred the sectional format that fed into a final four.
"I'm not saying what we have now is horrible, but it does make it difficult for smaller schools," Miller said. "You have to have at least three good pitchers unless you get the perfect draw."
But Miller doesn't favor going to classes. He thinks Kentucky has "watered down" football by going to six classes, and that Indiana ruined its high school basketball by having multiple champions. "Of course, I'm speaking as somebody who's at a big school, but I don't think going to classes would help the overall betterment of baseball in the state."
Feltner said he felt good about how his proposal was received by the KHSAA, and he's optimistic something will happen, "whether it's this year or in 30 years.
"I'm not whining or fussing or doing this for notoriety," he said. "It's just something I believe in."
■ Elizabethtown Coach Don Pitts can testify to the spate of players needing Tommy John surgery. E-town senior catcher Zeke Pinkham and junior pitcher Hunter Sullivan, arguably the top two players in the 5th Region, have both suffered season-ending elbow injuries.
Pinkham, who signed with Louisville, is thought to have hurt his elbow in the Panthers' season opener. He was E-town's designated hitter the next two games before an MRI revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. He had Tommy John surgery about four weeks ago.
Sullivan hurt his elbow pitching against Central Hardin on April 15. He didn't pitch after that, but continued to hit and had a robust .469 batting average. But an MRI last week showed he also had a tear in his UCL. He was scheduled to have Tommy John surgery on Friday. Pitts hopes Sullivan will be back on the mound for the Panthers next spring.
■ Apollo's Bob Mantooth became the sixth baseball coach in state history to win 900 games when the Eagles beat Henderson County this week. Mantooth has led Apollo to 10 region titles in 39 years.
■ Atherton senior centerfielder Neil DeNicola tied a state record by homering in five consecutive games. Madison Central catcher Aric Burkhart did it in 1993.
■ Louisville Holy Cross won the All "A" softball championship in Owensboro last weekend. Bad weather forced a single-elimination format.
Holy Cross, led by tournament MVP Morgan Gailor, beat Somerset, University Heights, Raceland and Hancock County to take the title.
■ Lexington Christian will be seeking its fourth All "A" Classic baseball title since 2009 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark this weekend.
Saturday's matchups: Ballard Memorial vs. Carroll County, 10 a.m.; Hazard vs. West Carter, noon; Beechwood vs. Bethlehem, 2:30; Hancock County vs. LCA, 4:30. Sunday morning's semifinals are at 8:30 and 10:30.
The finals will follow at 1 p.m. Beechwood is defending champ.
■ First-round pairings for the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark: June 1 — 1st Region vs. 9th; 6th vs. 2nd; 11th vs. 8th; 16th vs. 15th. June 2 — 13th vs. 4th; 14th vs. 10th; 7th vs. 12th; 3rd vs. 5th.
■ First-round pairings for the Worth/KHSAA State Softball Tournament in Owensboro: June 4 — 2nd Region vs. 7th; 6th vs. 11th; 1st vs. 3rd; 8th vs. 5th; 12th vs. 14th; 9th vs. 16th; 13th vs. 15th; 10th vs. 4th.
■ Six Lexington runners — three boys, three girls — qualified for the Kentucky Dream Mile at St. Xavier on Friday.
Kendall Muhammad of Paul Laurence Dunbar is the two seed among boys with a time of 4:12.32.
Also entered are Tates Creek's Ben Young (4:18.98) and Lexington Christian's Aaron Wier (4:26.25). Michaela Rinehart of Lexington Catholic is the two seed among girls with a time of 5:02.60.
Also running are Sayre's Maddox Patterson (5:15.36) and Dunbar's Annie Vanderberg (5:15.95).
■ Could Paintsville linebacker Kash Daniel be the first Mr. Football from the mountains since Tim Couch of Leslie County in 1995?
Daniel picked up scholarship offers from Kentucky, Louisville and South Carolina in the last week. He's also gotten the attention of Auburn, Florida, Ohio State and Ole Miss after a strong performance at a Rivals camp in Charlotte, N.C.
Daniel, 6-3, 235 pounds, had 180 tackles and four interceptions, (he returned two for touchdowns) last season. He also played quarterback and rushed for more than 1,000 yards and passed for more than 1,000.
Daniel also has offers from Austin Peay, Ball State, UNC-Charlotte, Eastern Kentucky, Ohio University and Troy.
■ Buddy Biggs, who was fired as boys' basketball coach at Ashland Blazer at the end of the season, is the new coach at Mason County.
He succeeds Chris O'Hearn, who stepped down to become the school's principal. Biggs was an assistant coach at Mason County during the 2000-01 season. He went on to coach at Pendleton County and Ashland for a combined 14 years and had an overall record of 274-166, including nine 20-win seasons.
He led Pendleton County to the 2005 Sweet Sixteen.
■ Matt Rose is the second Lexington Christian Academy player to be named to the Kentucky All-Stars boys' basketball team. Will Evans was an all-star in 2010.
■ Henderson County standout David Simmons, who's on the Kentucky All-Stars team, has committed to Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College, according to the Henderson Gleaner.
■ Kyle Gullett, who helped Johnson Central to four consecutive state tournaments, signed with Transylvania.
Gullett averaged 18 points and nine rebounds a game this season and was 15th Region player of the year. He's a 4.0 student, got a 33 on the ACT and is ranked No. 1 in his senior class academically.
■ Steve Sparks is the new boys' coach at Ohio County. Sparks has been out of coaching six years.
He was at Muhlenberg North before the school merged with Muhlenberg South in 2009. He led Muhlenberg North to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
■ Neil Hayden is making the boys' basketball rounds in Owensboro.
Two seasons ago he was an assistant at Apollo. Last season he was coach at Owensboro Catholic. Now he's the new coach at Daviess County.
■ The Kentucky High School Athletic Directors Association's honorees: Jimmy Durham of North Laurel, Fr. Harry Jansing Athletic Administrator of the Year; Sam Sparks of Russell, award of merit; Stan Steidel of Holmes, Jim Watkins Award of Excellence; Pete Fraley of Boyd County, Garnis Martin Outstanding Coach; Nia Gibbs-Francis and Payton McKinley Carver of Madisonville, athletes of the year; Jerry Penner of Murray, Jim McAlister of London, WHOP radio in Hopkinsville and Martin's Peterbilt of Eastern Kentucky all got the Dr. Rudy J. Ellis Distinguished Service Award.