"Amazing." "Surreal." "Unbelievable."
Those were among Male Coach Todd Driskell's descriptions of his Bulldogs' stunning come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Warren Central in the first round of the Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Tournament on Tuesday afternoon.
"That was as improbable as it could possibly be," Driskell said. "We were just blessed, nothing short of miraculous."
Male trailed 4-1 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"I thought it was over," Bulldogs junior left fielder Jimmy Faul confessed.
Male's rally began when Warren Central workhorse Shane Waldrop, who hadn't walked a batter all day, walked Trey Simpson, No. 9 in the Bulldogs' order.
Zach Bynum followed with a run-scoring double to make it 4-2. Waldrop, tiring after throwing more than 100 pitches under a hot sun, hit Kameron Mason to put the tying runs aboard.
Waldrop loaded the bases with an intentional walk to Ryan Messex, and Zach Janes entered as a pinch-runner.
Faul made the Dragons pay for that strategy. He turned on a curveball and ripped a double to right, driving in two runs to tie it.
That was it for Waldrop, who came into the tournament with more wins (13) and innings worked (92) than any other pitcher.
"He was the horse that got us here, and basically we were going to ride him to the end," Warren Central Coach Shane Humphrey said.
With Waldrop spent, center fielder Trevor Lowe came on in relief and promptly uncorked a wild pitch. Janes scooted home with the winning run and into the arms of his celebrating teammates.
Warren Central nicked Male pitchers Taylor Isbell and Brandon Allen for 10 hits. Lowe and Jacob King led the Dragons' offense with three hits apiece.
We have nothing to be ashamed of," Humphrey said. "Out of 40 games we won 30 this year. This team didn't disappoint at all."
Daviess County 7, Hopkinsville 4: The Panthers won for the first time on the state tournament stage since they won the 1971 championship.
Austin Clay was Daviess County's main man against Hoptown. The senior lefty threw a complete-game three-hitter. He had nine strikeouts, walked one and hit four batters to improve to 7-0.
Clay outdueled Hoptown ace Justin Hageman, a 32nd- round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals.
"There's never a doubt what you're going to get from Austin," Daviess County Coach Brandon Dennis said.
"He's got so much heart. Even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's still going to battle and put you in position to win."
Clay said he didn't have his best velocity, "but when I don't I still usually have good control."
He was able to spot his off-speed pitches and keep a lid on Hoptown's offense. He gave up a solo homer to David Gardner in the fifth, but that was the only ball the Tigers hit hard.
The fifth was a critical inning for Clay.
"That's when I started wearing down a little bit," he said. "There's usually a wall I hit, but if I can get through it I'm OK. I got through it."
Coming into the tournament, Hageman had given up only three earned runs (eight overall) in 70 innings. The Panthers got four earned runs (seven overall) in one day.
"I was kind of surprised in a way," Hageman said. "But then again I didn't have my velocity at all, and I kept hanging my curveball."
Daviess County leadoff man Caleb McIntire had three hits and three runs, and Mitchell Owens had two hits and two RBI.
■ Home plate umpire Barry Follett was overcome by heat in the bottom of the fifth inning of the Daviess County-Hopkinsville game.
After getting first-aid treatment in the Hopkinsville dugout, Follett was taken to St. Joseph Hospital for precautionary reasons.
Steve Thomas took Follett's place behind the plate for the last couple of innings.
Daviess County 102 040 0—7 9 2
Hopkinsville 001 210 0—4 3 4
Austin Clay and Austin Edge. Justin Hageman, Clayton Smithson (6) and David Gardner. W—Clay. L—Hageman. 2B--Mitchell Owens (DC), Hageman (H), Caleb McIntire (DC). HR—Gardner (H).
Records—Daviess Co. 22-14; Hopkinsville 25-8
Warren Central 200 101 0—4 10 0
Male 000 001 4—5 9 2
Shane Waldrop and Jeremy Cline. Taylor Isbell, Brandon Allen (5) and Ryan Messex. W—Allen. L—Waldrop. 2B—Messex (M), 2;, Cline (WC), Preston Beckner (WC), Jimmy Faul (M), Zach Bynum (M).
Records—Warren Central 30-10; Male 28-11.