Wins by Hazard and Bullitt East came in contrasting styles at the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Friday. Hazard took the first game 1-0 over North Laurel in a pitchers battle. Bullitt East overtook Oldham County 6-3 in a game that saw a combined 18 hits.
Bullitt East (27-10) earned a date in Saturday’s quarterfinals with Scott County or Caldwell County at 6 p.m. Hazard (30-11) will take on either Campbell County or Ohio County at 8:30 p.m.
Hazard 1, North Laurel 0
Pitchers controlled the game between the Jaguars and Bulldogs, but Hazard pulled out the victory despite being out-hit 8-3.
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North Laurel started aggressively, putting runners in scoring position with doubles by Matt Brooks and Jack Capobianco in the second and third innings, but was unable to capitalize.
That left the door open for Hazard in the bottom of the third. Devon Morris hit a two-out double after working a tough at-bat. He scored on a single by Rudy Akemon.
Akemon led the Bulldogs at the plate going 2-for-2.
The run in the third proved to be enough for the win, as senior Griffins Wells held strong on the mound for Hazard. He got the complete game shutout, striking out nine.
“It was a pitchers duel, everybody seen it. You could tell late in the game that one run may do it, at least two,” Bulldogs Coach John Meehan said. “We were fortunate enough to get a man in scoring position and then get a base hit.”
Bullitt East 6, Oldham County 3
Back-and-forth action led to the Colonels and Chargers playing one of the more exciting games of the tournament. Oldham County scored first with two runs in the first, but a strong showing in the fifth inning sealed the victory for Bullitt East.
In the bottom of the first, a walk and a well-placed bunt by Brennan Byrd put two runners on with no outs for the Colonels. Then Jaxon Lashley delivered a double to left field to score Chris Seng, with Byrd being tagged out at home on the play. Later in the inning, a single up the middle from Jacob Bates scored Bradley Gordon to put Oldham County ahead 2-0.
Steady pitching and error-free fielding led to three scoreless innings after the first, but the Chargers broke the game open in the fifth.
With the bases loaded, James Morsey belted a double to right-center field to score Troy O’Brien and Derrick Kromenacker to tie the game at 2. With the bases loaded again later in the inning, Clayton Stallings singled to right to score Morsey and Jacob Reece for a 4-2 lead.
A run-scoring double by O’Brien and an RBI single from Reece added some cushion to the Chargers’ lead in the sixth. After Oldham County’s Bates led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run, Bullitt East starter Christopher McKinley squelched the rally by retiring three of the next four batters.
“We have the baseball ability to play on to next weekend. Sometimes we can’t get out of our own way,” Chargers head coach Jeff Bowles said. “We seem to be past that and hopefully our best baseball has yet to come.”