It seems as if new high schools and sports teams are popping up all over Kentucky. Coming soon to a ball field or gym near you will be the South Warren Spartans (Bowling Green), the Martha Layne Collins Titans (Shelbyville) and the Thomas Nelson Generals (Bardstown).
On the flip side, there's sad news that Red Bird, a small community school that has operated in Clay County since the 1920s, is closing because of a lack of funds. Unless there's an unexpected influx of money, the 20 or so seniors who get their diplomas on May 30 will be Red Bird's last graduates.
"It's a sad, depressing time," said John D. Wilson, who has coached the Cardinals' boys' basketball team the last 22 years. "Red Bird has given a lot of boys and girls a chance to participate in sports, music and other activities. I'm afraid a lot of them will drop out now, unless they've got parents who really support them."
While new schools in other parts of the state will provide more teams and more programs, Red Bird's closing means fewer opportunities for kids in that area. Wilson expects few Red Bird students who transfer to the big public schools in Clay, Leslie and Bell counties will participate in sports or other extracurricular activities.
Red Bird was rarely a blip on the sports radar, although in 1998 the Cards came within a game of reaching the Sweet Sixteen, losing to Clay County in the 13th Region finals.
But at Red Bird, winning was always secondary to just getting a chance to play.
■ Baseball's walk-off heroics almost always come courtesy of a hitter who knocks in the winning run (or runs). But Campbell County's defense delivered a different kind of walk-off when it beat Henry Clay 11-3 last weekend. The Camels pulled off a game-ending triple play in the bottom of the seventh. "That's one heck of a walk-off," Campbell County Coach Scott Schweitzer said. "All I could muster was, 'Wow!'" Henry Clay had runners at first and second, and both were on the move when the batter hit a line drive to Coy Shepard, the Camels' second baseman. Shepard stepped on the bag, then threw to first for the third out.
■ Lawrence County's Chandler Shepherd, who last year set a state pitching record for consecutive shutout innings (46), hasn't been on the mound at all this season. Instead, he's making noise at the plate. Shepherd had Tommy John surgery on his elbow last July, and has been rehabbing his arm ever since. In the meantime, he's been Lawrence County's designated hitter this spring. He's batting .544, with seven homers and 33 RBI. "We've never had anyone hit anything near those kind of numbers," Coach Travis Feltner said. Shepherd visits his doctor in Cincinnati on Saturday and may get word on when he can start pitching again. The junior right-hander has 28 wins and 364 strikeouts in his career. He helped the Bulldogs reach the state tournament last year.
■ Henderson County senior catcher Kyle Gibson, a Louisville signee, set a state record by homering in five consecutive games. Gibson has 18 homers this season, ninth most in state history. (Harrison County's Shon Walker set the record with 29 homers in 1992.) Gibson is also batting .473 with seven triples. Henderson County has a school-record 46 homers. (Harrison County holds the record with 105 in '92.)
■ Matt Bowles, who helped Bullitt East to the state tournament last year, is having a big senior season. The Chargers' leadoff man has a .414 average with 43 runs and 16 RBI and has stolen 25 bases in 27 attempts. When he's not playing shortstop, he's on the mound. Last week he beat No. 1 Lexington Catholic, giving up one hit and striking out eight in eight innings. He's 6-1 with a 2.41 ERA. In his career, Bowles has a 31-7 pitching record, with 253 K's and 85 walks in 243 innings, and a 2.23 ERA. "As a coach and father, I'm extremely proud of Matt," said Chargers Coach Jeff Bowles. Matt, who quarterbacked the football team to a Class 4A runner-up in 2008, has signed to play baseball at John A. Logan Junior College in Illinois.
■ Lexington Catholic softball coach Bob Griggs got his 300th career win when the Lady Knights beat Nicholas County this week. Griggs is in his 16th season as coach, and his daughter Lindsay is on the team.
■ Lexington Christian Academy won the All "A" baseball title for the second year in a row by beating DeSales 7-6 in the finals. LCA's Evan Stephens was tournament MVP. Teammates Joe Duncan, Steven Hoagland, Clay Mossbarger and Lucas Witt were all-tournament.
■ If you want to follow the 42nd and 43rd district baseball tournaments, check out the live coverage at 11thregionsports.ihigh.com. Gary Ball and Mike Ritchie will do the play-by-play.
■ South Laurel softball star Emily Gaines singled in her last at-bat against Somerset, sparking a come-from-behind victory and extending her consecutive-game hit streak to a state-record 44 games. She has since stretched it to 45. Gaines, a UK signee, is batting .636 with 11 homers and 54 RBI. Her hit streak goes back to May, 2009. Ali Ray of North Laurel held the previous record of 43 in a row.
■ St. Xavier's Ian Tompkins threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 victory over archrival Trinity Wednesday at Louisville Slugger Field. Tompkins had 11 strikeouts while Trinity ace Corey Littrell gave up nine hits and had nine K's.
■ Elizabethtown honored its 1970 state championship baseball team before a game against Paducah Tilghman last week. That was fitting since E-town beat Tilghman 6-2 in the finals 40 years ago. Ron Myers, who coached that title team to a 28-8 record, was on hand to welcome back his former players, including star pitcher Ernie Lewis.
■ Tates Creek grad Ryan Mangione, a junior shortstop at St. Catharine College, was named first-team Mid-South Conference, and earned Gold Glove honors.
■ James "Boo" Brewer and Doug Johnson, who starred on Bardstown's 1988 basketball team, were named head coaches of rival schools in their hometown on Monday. Brewer is the new coach at Bardstown. Johnson is taking the reins at Nelson County. "It's kind of weird, this both happening on the same day," Brewer told the Kentucky Standard. Johnson said, "It's going to be an interesting rivalry." Johnson was an assistant at Nelson County the last two years. Brewer was on the staff at LaRue County. As seniors at Bardstown, Brewer and Johnson helped the Tigers to a top-10 ranking, a runner-up finish in the Louisville Invitational Tournament (to reigning state champ Clay County), and a 28-6 record.
■ Jason Booher, who's leaving Shelby Valley for Holmes, isn't the first coach to cut ties with a school soon after winning a boys' state title. Danny Haney led Lexington Catholic to the 2002 Sweet Sixteen championship, then 24 days later announced he was leaving for North Broward Prep in Florida.
■ Henry Clay's Marquel Johnson (11ppg, 43 percent three-point shooting) will sign with Asbury.
■ Walton-Verona's 6-9 Camron Burns (10 ppg, 10 rpg) signed with DePauw.
■ Matt Lemon, an assistant at Moore the last two seasons, is the new boys' basketball coach at Seneca.
■ Wide receiver Branden Burdette and lineman Evan Jacoby, who helped Lexington Christian to the Class A state football title last fall, are headed to Georgetown College. Burdette had 47 catches for 1,030 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Jacoby played on the offensive line.
■ Randy Vanderhoof is stepping away from the Raceland football program after 25 years, the last 13 as head coach. He had a 90-61 record. Vanderhoof will stay on as a teacher and baseball coach at the small school in Greenup County. The Ashland Daily Independent said Rams' assistant T.J. Maynard will probably take over as head football coach.
■ Randy Frazier, football assistant at Bell County the last six years, is the new head coach at Middlesboro.
■ Jason Chappell stepped down as Campbellsville's football coach after one season.
■ Boyle County track star Cheyenne Evans, who's won state titles in the 400 and 800 meters, and 1,600 and 3,200 relays, will run for Centre College.
■ The Indiana High School Athletic Association will split soccer into two classes, starting in the fall of 2011. Soccer will join basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and football as sports with classes in Indiana.