Taylor Martin played the familiar role of giant killer for Lexington Catholic, and Austin Johnson flirted with a no-hitter for Lexington Christian Academy in leading their teams to victory in the 43rd District baseball semifinals Tuesday night.
Martin, a sophomore who hit two free throws in the closing seconds to beat No. 1 Scott County in the 11th Region basketball finals two months ago, was the winning pitcher as the No. 7 Knights beat No. 2 Tates Creek 5-3.
"Taylor's the guy we want with the ball in his hands because, if he can hit two free throws with 5,000 people in the stands, he's a competitor," Lexington Catholic Coach Kevin Clary said.
Johnson, meanwhile, threw no-hit ball for five innings before yielding a pair of singles as LCA blanked host Lafayette 3-0.
"Pitching was really the story of the game for us," Eagles Coach Keith Galloway said.
LCA (28-7) will face Lexington Catholic (21-7-3) in Wednesday's district finals. Both teams will advance to the 11th Region Tournament next week.
Lexington Catholic 5, Tates Creek 3: Martin, making only his second start of the year, didn't have his best stuff, but he still limited Tates Creek to four hits and two runs in 52⁄3 innings.
The lanky 6-foot-4 sophomore had eight strikeouts and walked three before giving way to Devon Williams.
"I wasn't hitting my spots with my curveball, but I was with my fastball," Martin said. "The good thing was, we really hit the ball."
After Tates Creek took a 2-0 lead in the second on Tanner Baldwin's two-run homer, Lexington Catholic got to Commodores ace Trevor Gott, who had given up only one earned run in 28 innings.
Michael Jansen doubled, Tyler Jackson tripled, and Taylor Botkin singled to tie it in the second.
The Knights took a 5-2 lead in the fourth. Casey Messner, John Michael Cowley and Patrick Maronde drove in the runs.
Clary said his players had a simple strategy against the hard-throwing Gott.
"Our motto was, spit on the curveball and hit the fastball," he said. "If you go back and look, we didn't swing at a curveball all night."
Tates Creek Coach Dom Fucci said Gott was hampered when the mound rubbed a blister on his foot.
The Commodores scratched out a run in the seventh off Williams and had two runners on with two outs. But the rally ended there.
"Catholic did a good job keeping us off balance and our offense down," Fucci said. "It's tough to manufacture runs with two outs."
LCA 3 Lafayette 0: Shane Crain's two-run homer in the first put the Eagles on top, and their pitching staff made sure they stayed there.
Johnson kept Lafayette hitless until Brandon Smith and Johnny Youngblood led off the sixth with back-to-back singles.
Clay Hall came on in relief. He pitched to one batter and got a pop-up bunt for an out. Chris McCamy then came on and got the last five outs.
Johnson struck out five and walked two in his stint. McCamy had two strikeouts.
Lafayette had chances to score in the third and fourth.
With a runner at second with two outs in the third, Smith smashed a shot to deep center, but LCA's Lucas Witt made a running catch.
The next inning, Lafayette's Youngblood walked, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch with no outs. But Johnson struck out the next two batters, then ended the threat with a flyout.
Brent Cobb pitched well for Lafayette but didn't get any offensive support.
Tates Creek 020 000 1—3 5 0
Lexington Catholic 020 300 x—5 10 0
Trevor Gott, Logan Jackson (4) and Lee Kimbrell. Taylor Martin, Devon Williams (6) and Michael Schornick. 2B—Ryan Fucci (TC), Patrick Maronde (LC), Michael Jansen (LC). 3B—Tyler Jackson (LC). HR—Tanner Baldwin (TC)
Records—Tates Creek 24-9; Lexington Catholic 21-7-3
Lafayette 000 000 0—0 2 3
Lexington Christian 200 010 0—3 7 2
Brent Cobb and Jason Fergerson. Austin Johnson, Clay Hall (6), Chris McCamy and Steven Hoagland. 2B—Tyler Townsend (LCA), Ben Hartley (LCA). HR—Shane Crain (LCA).
Records—Lafayette 17-12-1; LCA 28-7