Defending state baseball champion West Jessamine punched a ticket to the second round of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, knocking off 4th Region champion Bowling Green in Thursday’s final first-round game. Four more first-round games will be played Friday.
West Jessamine starter Mark Leonard, who has paced the Colts’ pitching rotation all year, held the Purples to one run on four hits while striking out eight in six innings. Leonard sat Bowling Green down in order in the first, fourth and sixth innings. Jacob Hyland came on in relief in the seventh and allowed two hits, but closed the door with two strikeouts.
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“I felt like I had command of all my pitches today,” said Leonard. “It got away from me in the second inning a little bit but I battled back and got the job done.”
West Jessamine’s offense broke through in the second inning on a two-RBI triple off the center-field wall by Ryan Layne that scored Kendall Peters and Braedon Lee. Layne went 3-for- 3.
“When Ryan hit that first gi-normous bomb … I was like, ‘now it’s time to go out there and do my job and protect the lead,’” Leonard said.
The Colts broke it open in the fourth inning. They took advantage of three Bowling Green errors, including two by pitcher Stuart Posey, to score four more runs. Peters and Tucker Greer had an RBI apiece in the inning.
The win sets up a showdown between the last two state champions, West Jessamine and 2014 winner St. Xavier, who won this year’s loaded 7th Region and knocked off No.1 Greenup County on Thursday.
“St. Xavier is a very nice team, they’ve got great pitching and they’re very sound,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we can come out and put something together and figure out a way to win.”
Leonard said the Colts don’t feel any added pressure facing a tough matchup in the second round.
“It’s just another baseball game,” he said. “We’re not worried about who we’re playing. We just need to go out there and get the job done.”
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225