NICHOLASVILLE — West Jessamine's boys' basketball team made school history by winning back-to-back region titles and playing in the Sweet Sixteen the last two years.
Now it's the baseball team's turn in the spotlight.
West Jessamine lived up to its No. 4 ranking by beating No. 25 Danville 4-3 in a thrilling 12th Region finals at East Jessamine Thursday night.
The victory earned the Colts their first trip to the state baseball tournament.
An emotional coach Jody Hamilton told his players after the game that they will "go down as the greatest team in West Jessamine history."
It's hard to argue with that. The pitching-rich, senior-laden Colts will take a 33-7 record to Applebee's Park where they will face the 8th Region winner in the first round of the Forcht Bank State Tournament on June 14.
Speedy Bud Morton scored the decisive run in the top of the seventh inning for West Jessamine. He singled with one out, then raced from first to third on a wild pitch.
"So much adrenaline was going, I ran on instinct," Morton said.
Dalton James followed with a sacrifice fly to center, and West Jessamine was three outs away from victory.
Danville made it an exciting finish.
Duran Elmore, who belted a solo homer earlier in the game, led off the seventh and was hit by a pitch.
That was the end of the night for Colts starting pitcher Alex Lester, who was shaky early but settled down and had 10 strikeouts.
Junior Jakson Deyer came on in relief and struck out the next two batters.
That brought Danville slugger Mike Evans to the plate. He had stroked his 16th homer of the season in the sixth to tie it 3-3, so Deyer was cautious with him.
With a 2-0 count, Deyer threw a low fastball that skipped through the legs of catcher Louie Helmburg.
Elmore, imitating Morton, sped from first to third.
"It was like deja vu," Hamilton said.
With the tying run at third, Hamilton had Deyer intentionally walk Evans.
The strategy paid off. Deyer got the final out on a pop-up to second, prompting a Colts celebration on the field and in the stands.
"It was a great game, back and forth, that nobody wanted to lose," Danville Coach Paul Morse said.
"They just executed a little bit better. When you have two good teams, little things come into play."
West Jessamine's post-season success has been built on pitching. In their previous four tournament games, the Colts gave up just one run.
"I've said all along this is as good a pitching staff as I've ever had, and that includes Boyd County," said Hamilton, who led the Lions to a state title 10 years ago.
West Jessamine's defense has also been solid the last couple of weeks.
"Pitching and defense is what it takes this time of year," Hamilton said. "Hopefully we've got a few more games left."
West Jessamine 200 010 1—4 6 0
Danville 100 011 0—3 6 0
Alex Lester, Jakson Deyer (7) and Louie Helmburg. Mike Evans, Austin Baxter (5) and Andrew Lasure. 2B--Huston Barber (WJ), Gus Sherrow (WJ). HR--Duran Elmore (D), Mike Evans (D).
Records--West Jessamine 33-7; Danville 30-10