Bryan Station's long-suffering baseball program got a jolt of joy when the Defenders stunned No. 1 Lexington Christian in the 11th Region semifinals Tuesday night.
Fans at Applebee's Park were treated to a thriller as Bryan Station escaped a bases-loaded no-out jam in the bottom of the sixth and upset the Eagles 4-1.
Lexington Catholic rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Franklin County 9-3 in the first semifinal.
No. 18 Bryan Station (16-13) will face No. 9 Lexington Catholic (23-8-3) in the region finals Wednesday night.
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First-year Bryan Station coach Eddie Brooks appeared calm after the shocker, but he admitted he was thrilled for his kids.
"They're playing 'Believe baseball,'" he said. "I've told them from day one they're as good as anybody in the state.
"They're playing the game the way it's supposed to be played. They're making the routine plays, getting big hits and running the bases hard.
"They're coming along and slowly turning this program around."
Bryan Station led 1-0 after four innings behind the strong pitching of Bobby Bollmer, who gave up only one run and three hits in five innings.
LCA tied it in the fifth on Shane Crain's triple and Andrew Harris' RBI groundout.
Bryan Station edged ahead 2-1 in the sixth when pinch-runner Del Clay swiped home on a double steal.
LCA looked in prime position to tie it or go ahead when it loaded the bases with no outs off Ryne Combs in the bottom of the sixth.
But Jordan Craig came on in relief with specific instructions from Brooks.
"I told him, 'Son, go get you a pop-up and a double play and get us out of this," Brooks said.
Craig promptly got a pop-up to left for the first out, then a comebacker to the mound that he turned into a 1-2-3 double play.
"I like my playing time so I follow instructions," Craig said with a laugh.
The pumped-up Defenders sealed their shocker by getting a couple of insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
LCA's Chris McCamy gave up a pair of walks and hit a batter to load the bases. Harris and Justin Miley scored on a throwing error to make it 4-1.
LCA beat Bryan Station twice during the regular season, but the Defenders won the one that meant the most.
Eagles Coach Keith Galloway credited Bryan Station for its gritty play, but also bemoaned his team's sloppy defense (three errors) and squandered scoring opportunities.
"But I'm proud of my kids," he said. "The class and heart and love they have for each other and the game.
"We had a great season. It's tough to have it finish like it did."
Lexington Catholic 9, Franklin County 3: When Flyers ace Sean Thompson fanned four of the first five batters he faced in the 11th Region semifinals Tuesday night, what was the word in Lexington Catholic dugout?
"(Thompson) was fast, but definitely not unhittable," Lexington Catholic's Michael Jansen said.
Even when Franklin County led 3-1 after three innings, the Knights kept the faith.
"We knew our bats would start eventually," Jansen said. "We just had to be selective and pick out the fastballs."
Sure enough, the No. 9 Knights erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning to earn a 9-3 victory at Applebee's Park.
Knights Coach Kevin Clary thought his team would have to scratch and claw for runs against Thompson.
"When you're facing one of the top pitchers in the state, you're lucky to get one or two," he said. "For us to put up an eight-spot was very surprising."
Franklin County Coach Deron McDonald was also surprised, not by the Knights' sudden offense, but by what happened to Thompson's fastball in the fourth.
"For some reason his velocity went down, from the high 80s to the low 80s," McDonald said. "He hasn't been hit like that all year, and he hasn't thrown that low a velocity all year.
"I have no idea why, but he just ran out of gas early."
The Knights made him pay as they batted around in the inning, with Patrick Maronde collecting a pair of singles.
Frank Carter, Taylor Botkin, and John Michael Cowley also had hits. Cowley also drove in two runs.
That was it for Thompson, who gave way to Jon Sturgill.
Lexington Catholic's starter, Carter, didn't make it through the second inning. He was pulled after giving up run-scoring hits to Eric Meyer and Lyndon McKee.
Devon Williams, whom Clary planned to start in the title game, came on in relief and was terrific. The senior right-hander didn't allow a hit in 52⁄3 innings. He had six strikeouts and four walks.
"We were hoping to save him for the finals, but when you get down 3-0, there's no tomorrow," Clary said.
The region finals are a familiar situation for Lexington Catholic, which is there for the fourth year in a row.
Even though they started the season with a relatively inexperienced team, the Knights expected this success.
"We knew we'd be able to get this far," Jansen said. "But this is not our goal. Our goal is the state tournament."
Franklin County 030 000 0 — 3 3 2
Lexington Catholic 001 800 x — 9 7 0
Sean Thompson, Jon Sturgill (4) and Tyler Williams. Frank Carter, Devon Williams (2) and Michael Schornick.
Records—Franklin County 26-5; Lexington Catholic 23-8-3
Bryan Station 010 001 2 — 4 5 0
Lexington Christian 000 010 0 — 1 3 3
Bobby Bollmer, Ryne Combs (6) and Brady Boling. Clay Hall and Steven Hoagland. 2B—Justin Miley (BS). 3B—Shane Crain (LCA).
Records—Bryan Station 16-13; LCA 30-8