The low point of the Greenup County baseball team’s season came on a chilly Saturday entering the final week of the regular season.
That was the day the Musketeers suffered their first — and so far only — loss in 2016. They’ve reeled off seven straight wins coming into the state tournament and have maintained the No. 1 spot in Prep Baseball Report’s rankings for much of the season. They were rated seventh in the most recent USA Today Super 25 ranking of teams nationally.
At 39-1, Greenup County has the most wins of any team entering the state tournament since Paul Laurence Dunbar carried a 38-4 mark into the 2003 edition. That Dunbar team finished 41-4 and as state champions (the state tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2010). Greenup Coach Greg Logan knows the proverbial target will be on his squad when the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament gets underway Thursday in Lexington.
“Even though we’re No. 1 or whatever, everybody’s goal is — if I were them— ‘Let’s send No. 1 home as quick as possible,’” Logan said. “But whether you’re No. 1 or No. 280, what makes the difference now? It carries no weight. ... If a high school’s ranked 280 and they’re in the 16, they’ve got a chance. Right now it’s throw the rankings out and get the job done.”
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After East Jessamine’s Chase Wozniak pitched a complete game to lead the Jaguars in a 2-1 win over Greenup County on May 14 at Lafayette, Logan said his players were devastated.
Looking back, though, “it was a good answer to a lot of prayers” for a team whose mindset had been compromised by the task of going undefeated. Instead of concerning itself with how to win, Greenup was playing not to lose.
Logan saw that pressure mounting over the course of their three-game stand in Lexington that weekend. The Musketeers picked up wins over Lafayette and Madison Central — the eventual 43rd District champion and the defending 11th Region champion — before succumbing to the Jaguars, who finished 14-19 after falling in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament.
The trip boosted Greenup’s confidence but also reignited its focus.
“Now we know we can beat Lafayette, we can beat Madison Central, we can beat these other teams,” Logan said. “And we can also get beat by East Jessamine too if we do not do the things that we know we should be doing.”
Next up is a date with St. Xavier, champions out of the 7th Region meatgrinder.
Greenup County bested St. X, 3-1, as part of the Fayette County Invitational in 2015. Logan was able to scout the 2016 edition in its 2-0 win over Manual in the region finals; he’s expecting a tight game and an opponent that will make few mistakes.
He’s also expecting his team to be jitter-free after making a run to the state semifinals a year ago. The Musketeers punched their second straight ticket to the big dance with a convincing victory over Ashland Blazer in the 16th Region finals, which came one night after Greenup survived one of its best tests all season in a 3-2 finish over Rowan County and Louisville commit Cameron Planck.
“We should come out of the gate strong and quick and fast, and that’s the way we wanna finish,” Logan said. “When we cross the finish line, we wanna be in the lead and stay there. That’ll make being No. 1 so much better.”
The loss in May put to bed any hopes of unseating Madison Central’s 1982 team as the most recent undefeated champion, and it stung in the immediate aftermath. Greenup County hopes to turn it into a laughing matter.
“Who really cares when on Saturday night two weeks from now that one loss is probably gonna be humorous if we can hoist the big trophy up?” Logan said. “ ... It’ll have a place in the book. ‘Here’s the perfect loss if there ever was one.’ I don’t know what chapter that’ll be in but it’ll be in that book.”
When: Thursday-Saturday this week; Friday and Saturday next week
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington