After American Pharaoh goes for the Triple Crown Saturday evening, the West Jessamine Colts will try to win the school's first state baseball title Saturday night.
So far this week, West Jessamine has looked like a Thoroughbred the way it has left the competition in its dust in the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament.
West Jessamine (35-7) will play Highlands (35-6) in Saturday's 7 p.m. finals.
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"We said we wanted to have fun this week, and speaking for the team, we're having an absolute blast," said Colts' designated hitter Maxx Mahon.
Mahon delivered a few blasts against Scott. He had an RBI triple, a two-run double and an RBI single.
With the game shortened to five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule, Mahon didn't get to take a swing at hitting for the cycle.
"That would've been fun," he said. "But winning like this is more important."
West Jessamine has totaled 38 runs and 34 hits in three games. It has been helped along by the opponents' 11 errors.
"We've played fantastic the last three games," Coach Jody Hamilton said. "We haven't pitched as well as I thought we would, but we've done a very good job with everything else."
West Jessamine and Scott were tied 2-2 after the first inning, but the Colts bolted ahead with six runs in the second, four in the third and three in the fourth to lead 15-2.
Besides Mahon, the winners got big contributions from Tucker Greer (two hits, two runs), Kendall Peters (single, two runs, two RBI), and Troy Merida (triple, two runs, two RBI).
The Colts got help from Scott, which commited five errors, four coming in the second inning.
Tanner Graham got the pitching win. He gave up 11 hits in five innings, with three strikeouts and no walks.
Scott made a spirited run to the final four by beating Knott Central and No. 18 North Bullitt before running up against a strong bunch of Colts in the semifinals.
Highlands, like West Jessamine, will be in its first state title game. Hamilton expects a battle. "They've got some guys who can throw, and they swing it pretty good, too," he said. "I just hope we get our 'A' game on and have some more fun."
'We're no longer just a football school'
Highlands, a 23-time state champion in football, is in the state baseball finals for the first time.
"We're no longer just a football school, we're an athletic school," senior catcher Luke Hennigan said with a smile after the Bluebirds clipped Greenup County 5-2 in the semifinals of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament Friday night.
Joseph Martin threw a complete game to lead No. 20 Highlands to its 15th consecutive victory.
"Baseball is getting their shot now," Martin said. "We're just playing some ball right now."
The Birds have survived the grueling week at Whitaker Bank Ballpark so far because of their solid pitching.
Mitchell Jones gave them a quality start (52⁄3 innings) in a first-round 5-2 win over No. 1 McCracken County.
Ricky Raisor had a strong performance (6 innings) in a 3-1 win over No. 18 North Bullitt in the quarterfinals.
When Martin took the mound in the semifinals, Coach Jeremy Baioni wasn't sure what to expect. Martin has had a nagging finger injury (on his throwing hand).
But Martin went the distance against Greenup County, gave up three hits, struck out eight and walked two.
"He kept the ball down, changed speeds well and really grinded it out," Baioni said. "I was proud of him."
Highlands gave Martin a cushion by scoring twice in the second and three times in the third.
"When your team comes out hitting like that for you, it gives you that much more confidence, that much more wiggle room," he said. "And it's a lot more fun when you have a lead like that."
D.J. Mills led off the second with a single and scored on a Greenup County error. Luke Hennigan reached on a walk, and pinch runner Brad Greene eventually came home on a bases-loaded walk to Brady Murray.
Highlands made it 5-0 in the third. Hennigan's squeeze bunt drove in Jake Whitford. Grayson Heck's two-run single capped the inning.
Zach Hayden provided 31⁄3 innings of strong relief for Greenup County, and the Musketeers closed to within 5-2 in the sixth on Jared Hunt's RBI triple and Tristan Downing's RBI groundout.
It was too little too late.
"Sometimes you dig such a deep hole it keeps caving in on you, and that's what happened tonight," Greenup County Coach Greg Logan said. "In a semifinal situation, you can't rest a pitch, you can't rest an inning. We took some time off out there and that got us in a tough spot."
Greenup County, which doesn't have a senior on its roster, closed out a surprising run to the final four.
"If you'd told me in March when we rolled out the first pitch in the mud and snow that we'd be playing Friday night in the state tournament, how many people wouldn't take that?" Logan said. "This is a huge (building) block for us."
Thursday's late game
After scoring 11 runs on 11 hits in a first-round victory over Ballard, West Jessamine collected 14 hits in a 12-6 rout of No. 6 Elizabethtown in Thursday night's quarterfinals.
When told his team had put up 23 runs on 25 hits in two games, Coach Jody Hamilton said, "We needed every one of 'em because we played two teams that keep competing and keep coming at you."
West Jessamine earned a spot in the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Colts had a surplus of offensive contributors, led by Jonathan Jackson. The senior catcher, who had three RBI against Ballard, drove in four against E-town.
West Jessamine's other hitting stars included Trey Merida, who pounded a double and triple, had an RBI and scored twice; Kendall Peters, who had three RBI and scored twice, and Josh Blancet, who went 3-for-3 and had two runs.
Mark Leonard threw a complete game for the Colts.