VERSAILLES — The yellow lettering on the black covering on the right-field fence at Woodford County's Chandler Field sums up the Yellowjackets' ultimate baseball accomplishment: "2012 Kentucky State Champions."
It's a new season, but with a bunch of holdovers from last year's title team, Woodford County is ready to make another run at glory.
Coach Jeff Parrett's Yellowjackets improved to 6-1 by beating Bryan Station 6-1 Thursday in a rematch of last year's 11th Region tournament finals.
Clinton Hollon, one of the top pitching prospects in the nation, did the job on the mound for Woodford County. The 6-foot-1 senior right-hander gave up one hit, two walks, one run and had five strikeouts in six innings. Despite the chilly conditions, Hollon's fastball was consistently in the low 90s and topped out at 95 on the radar guns of about 20 scouts.
"He's so athletic when he throws, and his fastball was really consistent today," Parrett said. "He's still getting a little bit of a feel for his curveball, but it was good enough that he was able to get a few key strikeouts when he needed them.
"He's the kind of guy who makes you look like you can coach a little bit," Parrett added with a laugh.
Hollon, who has signed with Kentucky, said he's improved his off-speed stuff, but "I'm still staying steady with my fastball.
"When the weather warms up, I hope to pop some 97s and 98s up there."
J.T. O'Reel closed out the seventh by striking out three of the five batters he faced.
Pitching and defense, which carried Woodford County to a 34-6 record last year, are its bread and butter again this season.
Besides Hollon, the Jackets have veteran arms in O'Reel, Logan Parrett and Pete O'Nan. They also return catcher Gage Beavers, infielders O'Reel, Eli Boggess and Thomas Hickman, and outfielders Andy Stepp and Brandon Vrable.
"Offense is icing on the cake," Parrett said. "When we get that, that's a good deal."
They got that good deal against Bryan Station. O'Reel, batting in the leadoff spot, got two hits, an RBI and two runs; Boggess had a sacrifice fly; Stepp had two hits and a run; Beavers had a run-scoring single; and Travis Bingham had a hit and an RBI.
Bryan Station's only hit off Hollon was Jacob Moore's single in the third that drove in D.J. Perkins. The Defenders stayed close — it was 2-1 after five — thanks to Trae Mosley's four strong innings on the mound.
"The kids really battled against one of the premier pitchers in the nation," Bryan Station Coach Eddie Brooks said. "We had some quality at-bats. We had a few mishaps defensively, but I loved the way we competed."
Woodford County, meanwhile, is still trying to realize what it did last year.
"It really hasn't set in yet, honestly," O'Reel said. "But we know we've got a target on our back now. We know we have to come out every day and play the best we can."
Hollon said "it's pretty amazing" to think the Jackets are reigning state champs.
"It's a great feeling to know we've been there, and that we have a lot of guys with experience. But we're not comfortable. We can't settle in and expect teams to roll over for us."
Parrett wants his players to have fun and play with no expectations like they did last year, but he also wants them to accept their new status.
"It's something you need to embrace," he said. "Gosh, we've not been in this position where people respect our program."
WOODFORD CO. 6, BRYAN STATION 1
Bryan Station 001 000 0—1 2 4
Woodford County 200 004 x—6 8 1
Trae Mosley, Marcus Johnson (5), Nick Hodges (6) and Jordan Lewis. Clinton Hollon, J.T. O'Reel (7) and Gage Beavers. W—Hollon. L—Mosley.
Records--Bryan Station 4-5; Woodford County 6-1.