When the bracket for the 2017 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament was set, the high-ranked teams on one half of it, destined to knock off one another, were hard to ignore: No. 1 Louisville Trinity, No. 3 McCracken County, No. 4 Pleasure Ridge Park, and No. 5 Scott County.
Simon Kenton? You won’t find them anywhere in the state coaches’ rankings. But you will find them in Saturday’s state championship game.
Making the program’s first trip to the state tournament since a run to the finals in 2014, the Pioneers defeated Marion County 5-2 Friday, getting a few breaks and some clutch hits in a three-run sixth inning that decided the game.
“I’m at a loss for words, said Simon Kenton catcher Hunter Faehr. “It’s just amazing how we can just come together and do what we’re doing now.”
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The Pioneers don’t mind flying under the radar.
“I feel like we’ve been underdogs this entire tournament. Everybody’s had a better record than us,” starting pitcher Mitchell Kreidenweis said. “But I don’t think they know what’s coming.”
Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth with runners on second and third, Simon Kenton’s Joey Ponder placed a perfect one-out bunt down the third base line to score Brayden Trattles and put the Pioneers up 3-2, their first lead of the game.
An out later, Faehr, lined a double to left scoring Ponder and Bailey Martin and stretching the lead to 5-2.
“He’s in the nine hole, but he’s one of our leading hitters,” Simon Kenton Coach Troy Roberts said of Faehr. “He’s leading down there, he’s comfortable down there and he’s been doing it all year.”
Kreidenweis gave up a walk and a single in the top of the seventh to bring the tying run to the plate with two out. The 6-foot-2 senior gave up an Andrew Spalding home run in the top of the first inning and let the other run score on a wild pitch in the third, but he was not rattled with the game on the line.
“What can I say about Mitchell? He’s a big guy. I love him to death. He gets out there and he absolutely competed today,” Roberts said. “He gave up that first inning home run and he says, ‘No more boys, no more. I’m not giving up any more.’ … He just worked his butt off.”
As for the perception Simon Kenton will be the underdogs Saturday against No. 4 Pleasure Ridge Park? It doesn’t phase the Pioneers.
“I feel like if people overlook us, we’ll come out and surprise them,” Faehr said. “We’ve done it all season.”
Simon Kenton vs. PRP
What: State tournament championship game
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington
When: 11 a.m.