For the second day in a row, the Bullitt East baseball team dug itself into a hole. And for the second day in a row, it made a late charge to escape.
After trailing all game Saturday night, the Chargers broke through with a three-run fifth inning to knock off Scott County 6-5 in the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark and punch a ticket to next weekend’s semifinals.
“It looked a little too much like yesterday for my taste,” said Bullitt East Coach James Bowles, referring to the Chargers’ come-from-behind 6-3 win over Oldham County in the first round. “This group has shown we can battle. They just hung in there, and it’s a credit to the kids.”
With the Chargers trailing 5-3, Clayton Stallings drew a walk to start the fifth inning. Mitchell Langley brought him home with a one-out double. Troy O’Brien followed with a two-out single up the middle to put runners on first and second base and set the stage for Jacob Reece.
Reece laced a single to center field, scoring pinch runner Zach Jones. Derrick Kromenacker raced home for the go-ahead run when the throw from center field deflected off the mitt of catcher Braden Kopp, sending the Bullitt East dugout into a frenzy.
“That was a really exciting moment,” Kromenacker said. “I went to the dugout and everybody was fired up. It was great to see everybody into the game and having fun.”
Scott County starting pitcher Sam Sutton gave himself a cushion before he ever threw a pitch. After Cam Hill led off the game with a single up the middle, Sutton crushed a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers. Trey Binder tagged an RBI double to left field to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead halfway through the first inning.
But the Chargers responded in the bottom half with three runs of their own. After Garrett Wilson walked and Mitchell Langley was hit by a pitch, Kromenacker sent an opposite-field shot to right for a two-RBI double. Michael Lobred finished off the inning with an RBI single to left, tying the game 3-3.
The Cardinals added two more runs in the second inning with a sacrifice fly from Brice Fryman and an RBI single from Sutton. But Bullitt East starter Troy O’Brien found his footing after that, tossing three hitless innings before giving way to Garrett Wilson, who nailed down the save with a game-ending strikeout, sending the Chargers to their first state tournament semifinal since 2009.
Wilson said the Chargers never panicked despite trailing most of the game.
“We got in that hole early against Oldham, so we knew we could come back,” he said. “We weren’t really down or nervous, and once Jacob got that hit we were hyped.”
Wilson said Bullitt East’s 2009 team cast a long shadow this season.
“All our coaches do is preach about that 2009 team, and now it’s great because we get to talk about this 2016 team, and we’re not done yet.”
Clayton Stallings expressed little doubt when asked about his expectations for the Chargers next weekend.
“What kind of a question is that? We’re gonna win state. That’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225