Campbell County, the highest-scoring team through the first two rounds of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament, needed only one run to advance to its first state finals thanks to a dominant outing from star pitcher Alex Franzen in his final start.
The Camels defeated Bullitt East 1-0 in the second semifinals matchup that went nine innings on Friday. St. Xavier defeated McCracken County, 3-2, in the first semifinal, and will meet Campell County in a 7 p.m. championship game at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Saturday.
Franzen, a senior, gave up four hits, walked two batters and had seven strikeouts over 8 and 2/3 innings. He had to leave the game before recording the final out due to the pitch-count rule; he exited after throwing 122 pitches.
Box score: Bullitt East vs. Campbell County
Colton Hartig came on in relief of Franzen. The junior gave up a first-pitch single to Derrick Kromenacker, Bullitt East’s designated hitter, before striking out Jared Riordan to finish off the Chargers, who stranded two runners in the final frame and eight overall.
“There were a couple of pitches where I executed but in the end, defense prevailed and we won because of defense,” Franzen said.
Bullitt East starter Kyle McKinley matched Franzen’s performance on the mound. He surrendered four hits — none until the seventh frame — and struck out five over eight innings.
McKinley left after giving up a leadoff double to Connor Walsh in the top of the ninth. Walsh scored the game’s only run after Carson Plessinger doubled off Garrett Wilson soon after he relieved McKinley.
Franzen was complimentary of McKinley after the game.
“Props to him. I think he had a no-hitter through six,” Franzen said. “To do that in the state semifinals? That’s pretty darn incredible.”
Coach Scott Schweitzer called Franzen’s effort “absolutely awesome,” especially since the Camels failed to get much going offensively until late in the game.
“Honestly, I don’t know that I’ll ever coach a guy that competes like him ever again. He comes off and says, ‘Coach, get me a run, I need a run.’ He believes he’s the best kid on that field and nobody can touch him.”
Campbell County is the third school in 10th Region history to make the state finals. Harrison County has played in six title games and won four. Brooksville, now known as Bracken County, lost to Male in the 1944 finals.
Outside of its ace, Campbell County will have its entire pitching staff available for the finals. But don’t think for one second Franzen won’t leave an impression on the game.
“I love baseball,” Franzen said. “I will do anything in my power to win. I don’t care if it’s cheering offensively or doing whatever defensively to try to execute pitches. ... I enjoy being like that. I think it brings energy to everybody else.”
State championship: St. Xavier vs. Campbell County
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark