Paul Laurence Dunbar baseball coach Larry Poynter was more relieved than happy after his 10th-ranked Bulldogs slipped by Lexington Christian Academy 7-6 in the 43rd District opener.
When the game was suspended Monday night because of lightning, Dunbar led 6-3 thanks to Tyler Zander's three-run homer.
When the game resumed Tuesday at Lexington Catholic, Lexington Christian rallied to tie it 6-6.
But Dunbar scratched out a run in the bottom of the fifth. Ryan Akins was hit by a pitch, then gave way to pinch-runner Matt Stagnolia, who went to second on a groundout. Kyle Monthie's bloop single to center drove in Stagnolia with what proved to be the winning run.
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After the victory, Poynter gathered his players in center field and told them what he thought of their performance.
It wasn't a rave review.
"I thought (LCA) came out and battled as well I've seen them battle all year," Poynter said later. "But I didn't think our guys played up to their capabilities.
"We were sloppy. We didn't throw enough strikes, and we made errors.
"I thought we got lucky because we didn't perform as well as we should have. We performed just enough."
LCA kept the heat on until the end, but Dunbar's defense was up to the challenge.
After Taylor Blair's leadoff solo homer tied it at 6 in the fifth, the Eagles put runners at second and third with one out. LCA, aggressive on the bases all night, tried a double steal, but Akins, Dunbar's senior catcher, gunned down the runner at third.
In the sixth, the Bulldogs' pulled off a snappy 6-4-3 double play to kill an LCA threat.
And in the seventh, Akins ended the game by throwing out another LCA runner trying to steal second.
"They wanted to put pressure on our defense," Akins said. "I'm just glad I could come through."
Tyler DeAgano was the difference on the mound. He came on in relief to get the final out in the fifth and faced the minimum number of batters to finish up the game.
Dunbar faces top-rated Lexington Catholic and ace Taylor Martin in Wednesday's semifinals. Poynter said his Bulldogs better step it up:
"You're talking about the No. 1 team in the state and a UK signee on the mound. If you don't come to play, you're gonna be in trouble."
LCA, which made it to the state tournament quarterfinals last year, finished this season 12-22. But Coach Keith Galloway said his Eagles, especially the seniors, showed their spunk in pushing Dunbar to the end.
"You could look at the last two or three weeks and see our seniors' leadership and how they kept following instructions and trying to get better," he said. "That lends credit to their character."
Lexington Christian 003 210 0—6 9 2
Paul Dunbar 024 010 x—7 7 2
Ryan Bale, Aaron Johnson (3), Scout McCamy (6) and Chad Hall. Graham Winchester, Trent Martin (4), Stephen Holdren (5) Tyler DeAgano (5) and Ryan Akins. 2B—Clint Baumgardner (PLD), Taylor Blair (LCA), Ethan McKiddy (LCA). HR—Tyler Zander (PLD), Blair (LCA).
Records—LCA 12-22; Dunbar 24-11