South Warren had a frightening moment when starting pitcher Wes King was hit in the chin/jaw with a line drive in the fifth inning of its game against South Laurel in the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament Tuesday afternoon.
King crumpled on the right side of the mound as players coaches and athletic trainers rushed to him.
He eventually walked off the field with assistance, and was taken to the hospital. His injuries weren't serious, according to an early report.
"That's as scary a thing as I've seen coaching" South Warren baseball coach Chris Gage said. "It stunned me. I kept telling the team, 'Don't lose focus, don't lose focus,' but all the time I'd lost focus."
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King's teammates knew what they had to do for him.
"We were shaken up really bad," senior catcher Jacob Lewis said. "After he walked off the field we said we'd do it for Wes. And we did."
No. 12 South Warren led 5-3 when King got hit, and it held on to win by that score over the No. 7 Cardinals.
Lewis played a big role in the Spartans' victory. He belted a two-run homer that tied it 3-3 in the third.
Not bad for a guy the coach wasn't sure could play after he hurt his knee in the region finals.
But Lewis wasn't about to sit this one out.
"My knee hurt every once in a while, but I had to come out and be here for the team," he said.
The Spartans got the go-ahead run in the fourth. Ryder Litten scored on Austin McElwain's sacrifice fly.
King made it 5-3 with a sac fly in the fifth.
South Laurel, which beat South Warren in last year's quarterfinals, jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first. Joe Gaines scored on Braden Miller's sac fly. Trey Martin and Daniel Neal came home on a single by Taylor Morris.
The Cardinals had three hits in their first at-bat, but managed only two the rest of the day off King and reliever Chandler Harnage.
"We had a good first inning, then things sputtered for us offensively," Coach Wynn Harris said.
Harris saluted his seniors, some of whom have played varsity since they were eighth-graders.
"They've won over 125 games, three regional tournaments, and got farther in the state tournament (the semifinals last year) than any team in South Laurel history.
"This isn't a storybook ending, but life's not that way all the time."
Highlands 5, McCracken County 2: McCracken County came to town ranked No. 1 and sporting a 23-0 record against Kentucky teams. But No. 20 Highlands used strong pitching and timely hitting to tame the Mustangs.
"We realize when we come into big games like this, anything can happen so we've gotta be ready to play," Highlands third baseman Todd Ramey said. "It doesn't matter what the other team's rank is, who they are or who they have, anybody can beat anybody."
Ramey did his part. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior, who brought a .517 batting average into the tournament, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple. He drove in a run and scored once.
"He's a great hitter," Bluebirds Coach Jeremy Baioni said. "He has a great mental approach, a great swing, a great eye and great eye-hand coordination."
Highlands' pitching kept McCracken County's bats in check. The Mustangs had only three hits, all of them coming in the third inning. Ryan Garner's two-run double was the big blow off Highlands' starter Mitchell Jones.
Highlands got four unearned runs in the fifth off McCracken County's Cole Womack. Ramey and Brady Murray had RBI hits, and two errors allowed the other two runs to score.
"We had the momentum in the fifth before we uncharacteristically made a couple of mistakes that gave them the momentum," McCracken County Coach Geno Miller said.
Jones worked into the sixth to get his eighth win of the year. The senior right-hander had seven strikeouts and no walks. Ricky Raisor got out of a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the sixth. He had two strikeouts and one walk in getting the save.
Miller said Highlands was "everything we thought they'd be. We knew they it'd be a tough game. The way their kids battled at the plate was impressive, and their overall team was impressive."
Elizabethtown 8, Apollo 1: After E-town lost its two best players — senior catcher Zeke Pinkham and junior pitcher Hunter Sullivan — to season-ending elbow injuries this spring, a lot of people wrote off Don Pitts' team.
But the Panthers didn't give up on themselves.
"We've had great senior leadership," Pitts said. "They wouldn't be denied even when the injuries occurred. They were determined to get here and extend our season."
No. 6 E-town did that by rolling by No. 14 Apollo.
Peyton Payne drove in two runs, Cody Bridges had two hits and an RBi, and Jack Wilson had two hits and scored twice. The Panthers also took advantage of six wild pitches by Apollo starter Ryan Hundley. He had back-to-back wild pitches in the fifth that allowed two runs to score.
Apollo also had four errors.
"They made some mistakes we were able to capitalize on, and this time of year sometimes that's a key to advancing," Pitts said.
Bridges started on the mound for E-town. He gave up four hits and a run. He had four strikeouts and three walks. Graham Meek got the win with 32⁄3 innings of relief. He gave up three hits, struck out two and walked one.
Apollo Coach Bob Mantooth said his team "didn't play anything like we have been. We're better than what we showed, and that's the disappointing part."
South Warren 5, South Laurel 3
South Warren 012 110 0—5 6 2
South Laurel 300 000 0—3 6 1
Wes King, Chandler Harnage (5) and Jacob Lewis. Daniel Neal, Braden Miller (5) and Jon Jenkins. HR—Lewis (SW).
Records: South Warren 29-9; South Laurel 31-5.
Highlands 5, McCracken Co. 2
Highlands 000 040 1—5 9 3
McCracken County 002 000 0—2 3 3
Mitchell Jones and Luke Hennigan. Cole Womack and Derek Schneider. 2B—Todd Ramey,2 (H). 3B—Ramey (H).
Records: Highlands 33-6; McCracken Co. 33-3.
Elizabethtown 8, Apollo 1
Elizabethtown 001 241 0—8 11 2
Apollo 001 000 0—1 7 4
Cody Bridges, Graham Meek (4) and Zach Maulden. Ryan Hundley, Josh Owens (5) and Jakon Shuler. 2B—Jack Wilson (E), Peyton Payne (E), Nate Hopewell (A).
Records: Elizabethtown 32-8; Apollo 32-9.