The clock in center field flashed midnight just as Collins got the final out to knock off No. 5 Madison Central 5-4 in the first round of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Monday night.
“Guess we’re Cinderella,” Collins Coach Roy Bailey Jr. quipped.
It was the second time in three years the Titans have eliminated the 11th Region champion in the first round of the state. They bounced Tates Creek out of the tournament in 2013.
Collins, the 8th Region champ, used a four-run fourth inning and strong pitching by Will McDonald to get by Madison Central.
McDonald went the distance to improve his record to 12-2. The junior right-hander gave up 6 hits, struck out five and walked two.
“I thought he got tougher as the game went on,” Madison Central Coach Steve Roof said. “Great off-speed, command of his fastball . . . he took us out of our game a little.
“We hit the ball hard but they made the plays.”
Madison Central made it close at the finish. Down 5-3 going to the bottom of the seventh, the Indians’ Nick Kavanaugh reached on an error with one out. Josh Wright followed with a triple down the left-field line to make it 5-4.
But McDonald slammed the door after that. He struck out Ben Morin, then got Isaac Swafford on a high-bouncing groundout to first to end the game.
Did Bailey ever consider pulling McDonald when things got dicey at the end?
“No. Never,” he said. “When we get to the seventh and we’ve got lead, he’s the guy we want on the mound. He still felt good and strong. We were going to ride with him.”
The Titans never trailed in the game, which didn’t start until almost 10 p.m.
They took a 1-0 lead in the second when Bryson Dillon singled, stole second and scored on an error.
Madison Central pulled even in the third. Cory Mullins led off with a walk and gave way to pinch-runner Blake Gross. Gross went to second on a sacrifice, stole third and scored on Kavanaugh’s groundout.
Collins erupted for four runs in the fourth. Jay Becherer drove in two of them with a sinking liner to right that went for a triple when Wright slipped down coming in on the ball. Alex Doyle followed with an RBI double, and the Titans added another run on a fielder’s choice.
Nobody was happier to see the four-spot on the board than McDonald.
“That was the biggest confidence-booster ever,” he said. “We can hit the ball as good as anybody in the state. I believe that.”
Madison Central rallied for two in the sixth on Seth Richardson’s sacrifice fly and Cory Mullins’ RBI single.
That set the stage for the tense seventh inning.
Collins threatened to add to its lead when it loaded the bases, but Kyle Kelsey got an inning-ending strikeout.
Kelsey, who relieved Joe Holbrook in the fourth, had 7 K’s.
After Wright’s triple in the bottom of the seventh, Madison Central had the tying run 90 feet away from home. But the Indians couldn’t push it across.
“I was really proud of our team the way they battled back,” Roof said. “We tell them to compete for seven innings, and they did. We came up a little short We ran out of outs. We ran out of time.”
Bailey praised Madison Central as an “outstanding team. We scored one more run than they did, and that’s all it amounts to.”
Collins advances to face Greenup County in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Madison Central had a 12-game winning streak snapped and finished the season 33-7.
Collins 010 400 0 — 5 8 2
Madison Central 001 002 1 — 4 6 1
Will McDonald and Chris Crotzer. Joe Holbrook, Kyle Kelsey (4) and Cory Mullins. 2B–Alex Doyle (C), E.J. Burk (C). 3B–Jay Becherer (C), Isaac Swafford (MC), Josh Wright (MC).
Records: Collins 25-11; Madison Central 33-7.