Led by the bat of a quarterback, Knox Central put on an offensive show en route to the school’s first win in the state baseball tournament.
Jaxon Stewart, the signal-caller for the Panthers’ football team, went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs as Knox Central knocked off Boyle County 9-4 at the KHSAA/Whitaker Bank state tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Thursday.
Stewart’s RBI triple in the top of the third inning tied the game at 4-4. His towering two-run opposite field homer was part of a four-run fifth inning that blew the game open and gave the Panthers a 9-4 lead.
“Jaxon was on fire at the plate,” said Knox Central Coach Mike Bright. “He hit fastballs early then they tried to get a breaking ball by him and he sent it against the wall, he just had a great day.”
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When asked whether he prefers slugging long balls or tossing touchdowns, Stewart couldn’t choose.
“I love both,” he said with a smile. “I just really love to compete and win. And we’re gonna take this momentum and do something that’s never been done.”
After Boyle County starting pitcher Sam Tiller quickly retired the first two batters of the game, Knox Central struck. Jacob Nelson smashed a double off the left field wall then scored on Tucker Holland’s single to center field. Stewart followed with his first hit, a single to right field, for a 2-0 Panthers lead.
Boyle County didn’t waste any time erasing Knox’s advantage in the bottom of the first. After Cameron Walker singled and Karson Thompson reached on an error, Ty Dragan tripled home two runs then scored when the throw to third went into the stands. Hunter Mason singled then came home on Kaden Gervacio’s triple and the Rebels led 4-2.
But Boyle’s bats went quiet after that. Knox Central starter Seth Hill settled into a groove, striking out the side in the second inning and allowing the Rebels just two hits the rest of the way as he tossed a complete game.
Hill struck out 15 batters and didn’t issue a walk. Bright said the senior righty was unfazed by his shaky first inning.
“After that inning he settled down and did what he’s done all year,” Bright said. “Seth Hill is ‘that guy’ for us. He’s the most unemotional kid I’ve ever been around in my life and all he does is go to the mound and get it done.”
Holland and Jacob Nelson had two RBI apiece in the win.
It wasn’t all roses for the 13th Region champs. Knox Central committed three errors. But left fielder Evan Landrum brought the crowd to its feet with his defense in the bottom of the third inning. After Dragan legged out an infield single, Hunter Mason laced a ball down the left field line that looked like trouble. But Landrum made a highlight-reel caliber diving catch and the Rebels didn’t seriously threaten the rest of the way.
Knox Central will meet Marion County on Saturday at 1:30 with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
Three-run first inning sends Simon Kenton past Clark County
One step down, three to go in Simon Kenton’s pursuit of the school’s first state baseball championship.
Starting pitcher Mitchell Kreidenweis was dominant on the mound as the Pioneers knocked off Clark County 3-1 in Thursday’s nightcap of the first day of the KHSAA state tournament.
The Pioneers’ three-run first inning was enough to backup Kreidenweis. The lefty allowed just two hits and struck out eight over six innings.
"Mitchell’s a senior and he didn’t want his season to end, that’s the best way to sum it up," said Simon Kenton Coach Troy Roberts. "He pitched his butt off and worked."
In the top of the first Trent Kincaid singled to left field and took second on an error then stole third. After Brayden Trattles walked, Bailey Martin drove a two-run double down the left field line. Zane Fuqua followed with another double to put the Pioneers up 3-0.
"It was great getting that cushion, I knew I had some room to work with," said Kreidenweis. "But I wasn’t gonna give them anything, that wasn’t in the plan."
Clark County threatened in the top of the fifth when Brady Crowe singled up the middle and DaKota Puckett drew a walk. But Kreidenweis responded with a strikeout and a putout on a tapper back to the mound to shut the Cardinals down.
Starting pitcher Jake Ware kept Clark County within striking distance. The junior allowed just two Simon Kenton hits after the first inning and ended the bottom of the sixth by picking Fuqua off first base after a single.
Ware went the distance and struck out eight.
"Jake has been superhuman for us most of the season,"said Clark County Coach Matt Ginter. "We just had that small chink in the armor in the first and that was enough."
Trattles relieved Kreidenweis in the seventh inning and gave up back-to-back singles. Alex Back scored from third when Brady Crowe grounded into a double play. The Cardinals again had the tying run at the plate after a single by Puckett, but Jaxon Davis lined out to second base to end the game.
Roberts said Kreidenweis was so focused he didn’t have any idea he’d thrown 115 pitches.
"He doesn’t want to come out ever, but he didn’t know where he was in the pitch count. If he hadn’t been over 100 he would have pitched the seventh," said Roberts.
Simon Kenton will face Muhlenberg County on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the quarterfinals.