It's as easy as 1-2-3 to explain why Corey Littrell is considered the premier pitcher in the state.
Louisville Trinity's senior left-hander, who has signed with Kentucky, beat No. 1 Lexington Catholic 3-1 in extra innings Wednesday night, following up his victories over No. 2 Lexington Christian Academy and then-No. 3 Eastern the previous two weeks.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Littrell showed his best stuff of the season against host Lexington Catholic.
He had to be at his best because Knights' ace Taylor Martin was terrific, too.
Martin, a junior right-hander, struck out 12, walked one, gave up three hits and one run in seven innings.
Littrell rang up 11 strikeouts, walked one and scattered six hits in eight innings.
"Corey's had some good outings and some bad outings this season," Trinity Coach Steve Tompkins said. "This was a great outing."
Austin Warner pitched the ninth to get the save for the No. 10 Shamrocks.
Lexington Catholic's Troy Miller hit a solo homer in the second, but Littrell shrugged it off. "I didn't let it affect me because I knew I made a good pitch that he made a good swing on. It happens."
Littrell had a good — and timely — swing of his own.
With Trinity down 1-0 in the seventh, Littrell smashed a double off Martin.
Tompkins tried to send in a pinch runner, but Littrell waved him off. "That's the kind of player I want playing for me," Tompkins said, "somebody who wants to be on the field when the game's on the line."
Travis McCormick singled to chase Littrell home with the tying run.
The Rocks got to Lexington Catholic reliever Tyler Arthur in the eighth. Littrell reached on an error and scored the go-ahead run. Andrew Bowling singled and scored on Miles Bland's hit.
Littrell improved to 4-2 (both losses were to out-of-state teams). He has 57 strikeouts and 14 walks in 44 innings.
He was 8-2 with a microscopic earned run average last year, but his dad said Corey is a better pitcher this season.
"He's bigger and stronger, and he's increased his velocity (to around 90 mph)," Jack Littrell said.
Pro scouts have been a fixture at Littrell's games this spring. Jack Littrell has heard talk that his son could go as high as the first, second or third round in the June draft.
If Corey is drafted early, does that mean he'll go pro and skip UK?
"I love Kentucky," he said. "It's something I set my mind on when I was a little kid. I love the coaches and I want to go there."
His dad confirmed his son's feelings.
"Corey's always been a Kentucky fan, and it's been one of his dreams to play in the SEC. It would take a whole lot, I do believe, for him to bypass that."
If family history means anything, Corey is destined for the pros someday.
His grandfather Jack was an infielder with the Cubs in the days of Ernie Banks.
His father Jack was a pitcher who played in the minors for the Dodgers and Expos.
Does Corey have baseball in his blood?
"I guess so," he said. "I know I've got a lot to live up to."
He's on his way.
He could become the second Trinity player to win Mr. Baseball honors. Trever Miller won the title in 1991 and is still pitching in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Trinity 000 000 102—3 6 2
Lexington Catholic 010 000 000 —1 6 2
Corey Littrell, Austin Warner (9) and Dylan Ramser. Taylor Martin, Tyler Arthur (8), Colton Cleary (9) and Tyler Jackson. W—Littrell. L—Arthur. 2B—Littrell (T). HR—Troy Miller (LC).
Records—Trinity 13-12; Lexington Catholic 15-4