Lexington Catholic relief pitcher Frank Carter was the man under the gun in the 11th Region finals at Applebee's Park Wednesday night.
Bryan Station had scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to cut the Knights' lead to 9-8. The tying run was at third base and the go-ahead run at second with only one out.
When Lexington Catholic Coach Kevin Clary visited the mound, he found Carter cool and collected.
"I looked at him, and his pulse rate was about 70. He was just so calm," Clary said of his senior right-hander.
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"He told me, 'Coach, I got this. It's OK.' He calmed me down."
Then Carter shut down Bryan Station, striking out the next two batters to end the drama and clinch Lexington Catholic's 9-8 victory and its third title in four years.
"The adrenaline was going, and I was looking for the strikeouts," Carter said. "I was just happy I got them."
The No. 9 Knights advance to face the 12th Region winner in a best-of-three semi-state at Henry Clay next week.
Bryan Station, which upset No. 1 Lexington Christian in the semifinals, was looking for its first-ever region title. The Defenders did themselves proud in putting a serious scare into Lexington Catholic
"They showed a lot of character, heart and determination," said Clary, who was Bryan Station's coach when it last made the region finals in 1996.
Defenders first-year coach Eddie Brooks managed a smile after the tough defeat.
"These kids did something special this year," he said. "They earned a lot of respect, and we hope this is something we can build on."
Lexington Catholic survived despite five errors and a couple other misplays.
"The worst defense we've played all year," Clary said. "It was awful.
"They say adversity builds character, but I think it defines character. When we had to get it done, we did."
The Knights' seniors came up big in the biggest game of the year. They had all nine RBI, and combined for nine hits and six runs.
Carter had a three-run double in the first that put the Knights ahead to stay.
Michael Schornick had two hits, an RBI and a run. Devon Williams blistered a two-run double, and Michael Jansen had a hit, run and RBI.
Taylor Botkin, the tournament MVP, got the job done on the mound and at the plate. The senior right-hander, who had pitched only 14 innings this season, worked into the seventh. He also went 4-for-4 with four singles.
For Bryan Station, Aaron Helton and Patrick Cornett drove in two runs apiece.
The Defenders' quick feet on the bases may have caused some of the Knights' defensive problems.
"That's been our M.O. all year, to use our speed," Brooks said. "We gave it our best shot."
Lexington Catholic, meanwhile, takes a shot at its third semi-state title in four years. Not bad for a rebuilt team with a new coach.
"This means a lot," Schornick said, "because everybody doubted us. We lost six or seven seniors, but here we are again. It shows the tradition of our program."
Bryan Station 101 102 3—8 9 3
Lexington Catholic 400 311 x—9 10 5
Turner, Craig (4), Washington (4), Redmon (5), Combs (6) and Boling. Botkin, Carter (7) and Schornick. W—Botkin. L—Turner. 2B—Frank Carter (LC), Patrick Cornett (BS), Devon Williams (LC).
Records—Bryan Station 16-14; Lexington Catholic 24-8-3
All-tournament: Taylor Botkin (MVP), Devon Williams, Taylor Martin and Frank Carter of Lexington Catholic; Bobby Bollmer, Brandon Boling and Chase Turner of Bryan Station; Chance Clifton and Jon Sturgill of Franklin County; Nate Coon and Tyler Townsend of LCA; Jordan Goins of Woodford County; Zac Coldiron of Madison Central; David Losson of Model.