In a game strikingly similar to last spring's 11th Region finals, No. 1 Lexington Catholic held on to beat No. 12 Tates Creek 3-2 in high school baseball Tuesday night.
The Knights were also top-ranked when they got a strong pitching start from Zach Haynes in a tense 3-1 victory over Tates Creek in the region finals last year.
Haynes was on the mound again Tuesday. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior right-hander worked five solid innings. He gave up three hits, struck out four and walked two to improve his record to 3-0. He was 4-0 last season.
"This game was pretty similar to last year's," Haynes said. "I just tried to let them put the ball in play and let our defense work. I tried to keep our team in it, and we pulled it out again."
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Lexington Catholic's error-free defense did its job, following the mandate from Coach Taylor Brooks: "Make the routine play 100 percent of the time and don't give up any extra bases."
The Knights' offense got just enough done against Tates Creek junior left-hander Aaron Mitchell.
Tyler Jackson ripped a double in the first inning and eventually scored on an error. Evan Fraliex reached on a fielder's choice, advanced to second on Nick Chafin's single and moved to third on a walk to Robert Waller. With the bases loaded, Nick Nash was hit by a pitch, forcing Fraliex home to make it 2-0.
Lexington Catholic added what proved to be the decisive run in the fourth. Riley Jackson led off with a double, was sacrificed to third and scored on Tyler Jackson's ground-out.
"Our whole lineup is swinging the bat well," Brooks said. "We're lucky. We've got a lot of guys back from last year's state tournament team. That experience is paying big dividends for us."
Tates Creek got a run off Haynes in the fourth when Javon Shelby walked and Kyle Polley tripled him home with two outs. But Haynes stranded Polly at third with a strikeout.
The Commodores got a run in the fifth when pinch-hitter Luke Rouse drew a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second and went to third on pinch-hitter Jordan Fucci's single. Rouse scored on Devin Hairston's ground-out.
But Haynes, who will play college baseball at Indiana, again avoided further damage by getting a strikeout to end the inning.
"That's Zach," Brooks said. "He's a fighter with a bulldog mentality. When he needs it, he can go get it."
Griffin Neuer came on in relief for the Knights in the sixth and retired Tates Creek in order. The Commodores had the tying run on second with one out in the seventh, but Neuer got a ground-out and pop-up to secure Lexington Catholic's eighth win in nine games.
Tates Creek Coach Dom Fucci, whose team is 1-3, said he saw "some good things" from his team, which has several new faces in the lineup.
Mitchell battled through some control problems to pitch into the sixth. He gave up five hits, struck out two and walked seven. Nick Richmond retired all five batters he faced in relief.
Jeff Chapuran made a couple of terrific defensive plays at third for the Commodores.
"For an opening district game, I thought both teams played well," Fucci said. "Good pitching, good defense, timely hitting.
"We're breaking in some new guys and we'll take a little progress anywhere we can get it. But I'm happy where we're at early in the season."
Lexington Catholic 200 100 0—3 5 0
Tates Creek 000 110 0—2 4 1
Zach Haynes, Griffin Neuer (6) and Tyler Jackson. Aaron Mitchell, Nick Richmond (6) and Landon Skaggs. 2B — Tyler Jackson (LC), Mitchell (TC), Riley Jackson (LC). 3B--Kyle Polley (TC)
Records—Lex. Catholic 8-1; Tates Creek 1-3