Lexington Catholic celebrated its third state baseball championship Saturday night, beating upstart Owensboro 5-3 in a tougher-than-expected finals in the Forcht Bank State Tournament before 2,728 fans at Applebee's Park.
Frank Carter was the main man for the Knights. He pitched a complete game and delivered the biggest hit of the night, a two-run, two-out single in the fifth that rallied his team into the lead.
"Frank's done it in the region, sectional and state tournament," said first-year coach Kevin Clary. "In every clutch situation, he's always stepped up for us, whether it was at the plate or on the mound."
Carter, the tournament MVP, got an ice-water shower from his teammates, who kept chanting his name as if he were a rock star.
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But Lexington Catholic wasn't a one-man band as it became the fifth Lexington team in seven years to win the state title.
As was the case all season, a team effort carried the Knights to victories over Marshall County, Harrison County and Owensboro this week.
After a shaky first inning Saturday night, the Knights' defense was flawless.
The offense sputtered early, but it delivered in must-hit situations.
Owensboro, which made an amazing run through the playoffs after finishing the regular season 6-14, jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning.
Yantae Williams and Jacob Roberts singled, and eventually scored thanks to a pair of Lexington Catholic errors.
Red Devils sophomore Thomas White, who brought a 1-5 pitching record into the finals, baffled the Knights for the first 42⁄3 innings. His pinpoint location with his curveball kept Lexington Catholic off balance and scoreless.
But White got himself into trouble by walking the bases loaded with two outs.
Michael Jansen hit a grounder to deep short that he barely beat out, driving in pinch-runner Logan Hobson.
"I was just trying to make contact," Jansen said. "The bases were loaded, and I had to come through."
Carter then sliced a single to right, chasing home Patrick Maronde with the tying run and Devon Williams with the go-ahead run.
The Knights added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh on sacrifice flys by Maronde and Taylor Botkin.
Owensboro got a run in the sixth on Andrew Webb's two-out single, but Carter slammed the door after that.
He was the strongest in the bottom of the seventh, striking out the last two batters.
"Pitching was my role tonight, and I did it," the reserved Carter said after scattering five hits, striking out nine and walking one.
Did he expect to go the distance?
"Yes sir," he said without a hint of a smile.
Lexington Catholic brought a No. 9 state rating, and a chip on its shoulder, into the tournament.
The Knights felt they didn't get enough respect during the season. They were viewed by a lot of people as a team being rebuilt after graduating six everyday starters last year.
In the midst of their championship celebration, they remembered the slights, real or imagined.
"It makes it even sweeter because we kept hearing all year long that we were the third or fourth best team in town," Clary said. "We never believed that.
"That kind of insulted our kids, and they used that as motivation."
The Knights now have another championship trophy to go with the ones they won in 1999 and 2006.
Owensboro was disappointed but still proud of its improbable post-season run.
"There was so much fight in our kids. They came out so focused and ready to go," Coach Kip Walters said.
"You know what, win or lose, we won. We left it all out on the field."
Frank Carter (MVP), Devon Williams, Taylor Martin of Lexington Catholic; Davey Murphy, Yantae Williams, Nick Busch of Owensboro; Logan Dailey, Shane Fowler of Harrison County; Brandon Alphin, Matt Bowles of Bullitt East.
Forcht Bank scholarships
Eric Case of Harrison County; Tyler Downs of Bullitt East; Grant Epperson of Trinity; Bobby Feeback of Harrison County. Forcht Bank sportsmanship award: Jacob Hardesty, Owensboro. National Guard leadership award: Michael Schornick, Lexington Catholic.