Twelve years after Lexington Catholic beat Pleasure Ridge Park in a nine-inning state championship thriller, they had another classic encounter in the first round of the Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA State Tournament Tuesday night.
No. 1 Lexington Catholic was two outs away from a three-run victory before PRP rallied to tie it in the bottom of the seventh, giving the 3,609 fans in Whitaker Bank Ballpark more drama.
No. 9 PRP finally won it 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth when Cody Angus' bases-loaded sacrifice fly drove in Justin Brennan and touched off a Panthers celebration.
Afterward, PRP Coach Bill Miller recalled the heartbreak of the 4-2 loss to Lexington Catholic in the 1999 finals, then said with a smile, "This time, the good guys won."
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PRP, a four-time state champion, advances to face Newport Central Catholic in Thursday's quarterfinals. NewCath beat the Panthers 13-0 in mid-May.
Lexington Catholic, a three-time state titlist, was on the brink of victory when it took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Unbeaten Taylor Martin was on the mound, trying to finish off a complete-game victory.
But after leadoff man Hunter Johnson reached on a passed-ball strikeout, Coach Taylor Brooks brought in Colton Cleary.
The junior left-hander didn't have much luck. He gave up consecutive singles to Shaun White and Chris Burk.
Brennan followed with a grounder to second that the Knights almost turned into a double play. But Brennan was safe at first, and Johnson scored to make it 5-3.
Brooks then brought Martin back, putting the ball in the right hand of his senior star. But Marcus Brown greeted him with a run-scoring single to make it 5-4.
Martin struck out the next batter, then intentionally walked Angus.
The strategy didn't work, though. Aaron Hockman dribbled an 0-2 pitch to the left side of the infield for a hit that drove in Brennan with the tying run.
"That's PRP baseball," Miller said of the comeback. "We play as long as we can and never give up."
Lexington Catholic loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but reliever Hunter Johnson got a strikeout to end the threat.
PRP loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth on three walks by reliever Tyler Arthur. The Knights got an out at the plate on a fielder's choice, but Angus came to the plate with the bases still loaded.
The Panthers' best hitter delivered with a towering sacrifice fly to right field.
"I consider myself a really clutch hitter," Angus said. "(Lexington Catholic) wouldn't let me hit in clutch situations earlier, but they finally let me do it."
Angus was bullish on the mound, too. He pitched the first eight innings and had eight strikeouts, then had the game-winning swing.
"That's what he's done for us all year," Miller said. "He's clutch pitching and hitting.
"He's a man."
Lexington Catholic's three-run fifth, capped by Nick Chafin's two-run double, gave it a 5-2 lead. But the Knights couldn't hold off PRP.
"It was a hard-fought game and almost a storybook ending," Brooks said.
"But it takes a lot of breaks to win a championship, and we didn't get those tonight.
"Give PRP credit. They fought their way back."
And the Panthers' program got a measure of payback for a devastating defeat 12 years ago.