Henry Clay played — and won — a numbers' game in the 42nd District baseball finals Wednesday night.
The host Blue Devils held off Bryan Station 4-2 to go 8-0 against district competition this season and earn a "1" seed in next week's 11th Region tournament.
Don't tell Henry Clay's coaches or players that district title games don't mean much because the winner and runner-up both stay alive in the playoffs.
"We were looking to go 8-0 in the district, and it feels really good to do that," said junior designated hitter James Hendron, who had a home run, double and two runs in the Devils' third win over Bryan Station this spring.
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Henry Clay's first-year coach Jordan Tarrence added that "you can't take away the value of a No. 1 seed in the region, either."
District winners are paired against district runners-up, but that's not always a good draw in the 11th Region.
Henry Clay figures to be a tough matchup for anybody, even if it isn't rated in the top 25. One reason is Nolan Fernandez, who had his second complete-game victory over Bryan Station this season.
After limiting the Defenders to two hits in an April victory, the senior left-hander blanked them on four hits through five innings Wednesday night before fatigue set in on the warm night.
By then Henry Clay had staked him to a 4-0 lead. Hendron and Ethan Boggs each had two hits and two runs to account for all of the Devils' offensive output.
Bryan Station finally made some noise in the top of the sixth. Ryne Combs was hit by a pitch, and Michael Bollmer followed with a single.
After the runners moved up on a deep fly-out, Combs scored on Elijah Burdette's fielder's choice, and Bollmer came home on Mack Herndon's single.
Fernandez got in trouble in the seventh when Bryan Station had two on and nobody out. He got the next batter on a popped-up bunt, then right fielder Marcus Young made a terrific run-and-catch on a foul ball for the second out.
The Defenders weren't done yet, though. Brady Boling was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But Fernandez bore down and got Burdette to fly out to end the game.
"I got a little tired at the end, but I knew I had to focus and keep throwing strikes and trust in my defense," said Fernandez, who improved to 6-3 with a 2.00 ERA.
Tarrence didn't think Fernandez was in top form but liked the way he battled his way through trouble.
Bryan Station Coach Eddie Brooks, meanwhile, liked the way his players tried to dig themselves out a 4-0 hole.
"The kids came out and competed hard against a great pitcher and a good ball team," he said.
"I like where we're at."
Bryan Station hopes history repeats itself. Last year it lost to Henry Clay in the district title game. Unfazed, the Defenders went on to reach the region finals, where they barely lost to eventual state champ Lexington Catholic.
"This team is showing signs of being like the group I had last year, with a never-say-die, never-surrender attitude," Brooks said.
Bryan Station 000 002 0—2 6 3
Henry Clay 010 210 x—4 4 0
J.R. Halderman, Bren Redmon (2) and Brady Boling. Nolan Fernandez and Ryan McCray. W—Fernandez. L—Halderman. 2B—Ethan Boggs (HC), James Hendron (HC). HR—Hendron (HC).
Records—Bryan Station 16-16; Henry Clay 21-13.