Lexington Catholic sophomore right-hander Trip Lockhart confessed to being a little nervous when he took the mound against Paul Laurence Dunbar in the 43rd District baseball tournament opener Monday night.
He didn't show any jitters, though, as he threw a complete-game four-hitter in leading the No. 4 Knights to a 1-0 victory and a semifinal showdown with No. 2 Lafayette Tuesday night.
"Trip's got a moxie about him," Knights Coach Taylor Brooks said. "He doesn't let pressure get to him. He's very confident out there. Anytime you throw a complete-game shutout in the district, it's quite an accomplishment."
Lockhart surrendered four singles, one walk and struck out four. "I felt strong from the get-go," he said. "My off-speed was working and I was able to mix it in there."
Dunbar's Zac Conner had a strong pitching performance, too. He gave up only three hits — all singles — in six innings. He walked two and struck out three.
He gave up the only run in the third. With two outs, Andy Thompson hit a hard shot that glanced off Conner's leg, and the speedy Thompson beat it out.
Chris Thompson, Andy's twin brother, followed with a single that moved Andy to third. He scored when Dunbar made an error on Daniel Little's grounder.
"Trip was pitching an excellent game, and we figured if we got one run for him we could ride it out," Thompson said. "He threw a gem, and everybody played great defense behind him."
Little, Lexington Catholic sophomore shortstop who's signed with Louisville, vacuumed every ball that came his way.
"You can't hit it at a D-I shortstop and expect to get on base very often," Dunbar Coach Seth Knight said.
The Knights ended the game with a clutch defensive play.
Dunbar's Evan Nicoulin singled with two outs in the seventh, and gave way to pinch runner Jake Cunningham. After Cunningham moved to second on a balk, Ben Keplinger hit a hard single to right. Cunningham rounded third looking to score. He didn't have a chance. Right fielder Steven Bender's strong throw to catcher Ben Wilcoxson forced Cunningham to put on the brakes halfway down the baseline, and he was tagged out in a rundown.
"We have a saying in the outfield — 'Don't run on Bender' — because he's got an arm," Thompson said.
Knight couldn't have asked much more from his Bulldogs.
"Zac gave us an effort good enough to win," he said. "We put the bat on the ball but missed on some execution, but that happens. It's just the breaks of the game.
"Catholic executed just a little bit better and beat us 1-0. That's life in the 43rd District."
Lexington Catholic 1, Paul Dunbar 0
Paul Dunbar 000 000 0—0 4 3
Lexington Catholic 001 000 x—1 3 1
Zac Conner and Andrew Akins. Trip Lockhart and Ben Wilcoxson.
Records: Dunbar 18-14; LexCath 24-7.