David did not get the best of Goliath at Madison Southern on Wednesday night.
One of the more unconventional 11th Region tournaments ever played ended up with a winner many projected before the season even started. Scott County defeated Sayre, 7-2, in the championship bout to win its second straight title and earn another berth to the state tournament.
Officially, it’s the second state-tournament trip for the Cardinals, though they did play in several semi-state series before the format changed to a 16-team, single-elimination event in 2010. They’ll again meet Caldwell County, whom they defeated in eight innings, 1-0, in last year’s state opener.
Sam Sutton went six innings to get the win for the Cardinals, striking out nine batters and walking four. He allowed one run on only three hits.
First baseman Cade McKee was named tournament MVP after a strong all-around effort through the entire event. He pitched six innings and got the win in the Cards’ opening-round victory over Madison Southern and hit a homer to give Scott County its first lead in an eventual 8-5 win over Lafayette in the semifinals.
The freshman drove in Scott County’s first four runs in the finals and finished 5-for-7 at the plate over three games. He got on base in all but two of his 11 plate appearances, but took little personal credit for the Cards’ success this week.
“As a whole our team, we just came together at the right time,” McKee said. “We all clicked and we all started playing better. We just put our best effort out there and came out on top like we wanted to.”
Scott County Coach Scott Willard echoed the sentiment that the Cards were peaking at the right time. Throughout the year there wasn’t as much discussion internally about winning the region as there was about just making sure the team played its best at the end of the season.
“We’re playing about as good as we can play right now,” Willard said. “They’ve reached their goal of being the best team they can be by the end of the year. That’s what we were shooting at.”
A big part of Scott County’s success at the plate lately has been its bottom-of-the order guys. That half is anchored by six-hole hitter Brice Fryman, a junior who, by batting average, is the Cards’ toughest out.
For as good as he’s been at the plate, though, Fryman’s probably more dangerous in the outfield. He and McKee combined for an unexpected 9-3 out to end the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday night. Willard said he’d tried to get that out a couple of times this year but never could get the timing right.
“He’s one of the best athletes in the school,” Willard said. “He can do a lot of things, from running the football to hitting to playing great defense in baseball. He wears every at-bat on his sleeve a little bit.”
Sayre made its first appearance in the finals. Garrett Young earned the distinction of driving in the Spartans’ first two title-game runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Spartans Coach Kevin Clary gave the Cardinals ample credit for defeating his team for the fourth time this season.
“We did not execute our game plan and Scott County had a lot to do with that,” Clary said. “ … There’s no weakness in their order. And they’re super athletic and super competitive kids. They get after it, and if you let your guard down in any form or fashion, they’re gonna make you pay.”
What: KHSAA State Baseball Tournament
Who: Scott County (32-7-1) vs. Caldwell County (26-9)
When: June 9 at 6 p.m.
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington