WINCHESTER — Harrison County rallied from an early deficit to defeat Bourbon County 6-2 in the 10th Region baseball finals Thursday to advance to its third consecutive Forcht Bank State Tournament.
After the game, Harrison County Coach Mac Whitaker had reassuring words for his starting senior pitcher, Christian Chasteen, who survived a rocky first inning to ensure the Thorobreds (32-4) would be making a return trip to Applebee's Park.
"I never once thought of taking you out of the game," Whitaker said as he embraced Chasteen.
In the first inning, Chasteen started the game with a strikeout, but the Colonels (27-12) responded by loading the bases. After allowing a run on a wild pitch, Chasteen managed to limit the damage and record the final two outs.
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"Well, there was a lot of hype coming into the big game, and I guess a little bit of over-hype can hurt sometimes," Chasteen said of his early pitching woes. "After the first inning, I just settled in and trusted my pitches and my defense."
Although the Colonels got to Chasteen early, the Thorobreds returned the favor to Bourbon County's starting pitcher Chris Norman, who was shelled for four runs in the opening inning, including a three-run single by 10th Region MVP Jared Martin.
"I just tried to hit it hard somewhere, and luckily he hung a curve ball and I got a good hit on the ball," the shortstop said.
Bourbon County couldn't chip into the lead from that point on.
"They got us in a hole," Bourbon County Coach Nelson Faris said. "One bad inning really, really hurt us."
At the start of the fifth inning, lightning strikes in the area near Cardinal Field, home of Clark County — which Harrison County rallied to defeat, 4-3, in the semifinals on Wednesday — threatened the game, but after a 30-minute delay, play resumed and Chasteen made quick work of the Colonels' lineup as he retired six straight batters in the fifth and sixth innings.
"(Chasteen) just did a gutty, gutty job the last three, four innings. He was better then than he was the entire game," Whitaker said.
Bourbon County made one last attempt at a comeback in the final inning but couldn't cash in with two runners on base and no outs.
When Chasteen recorded the final out on a called strike that had the hitter frozen, the Thorobreds raced from the dugout to mob their teammates.
"It just keeps getting better and better," Martin said of his third straight 10th Region title.
These Harrison County upperclassmen remind Whitaker of his teams that won three state titles in the 1990s, despite Harrison County's label as a small school, he said.
"We've got a lot of individual talent, and we've got pretty good pitching, so the (similarities) are pretty close," Whitaker added. "We've won 20 regional (finals), and this is just as sweet as any of them.
"We'll probably bring more fans to Applebee's than anybody else."