High School Sports

Mike Fields' notebook: Fast times at 11th Region baseball tournament

Being a slow-paced game, baseball doesn't elicit as many "oohs" and "aahs" among its fans as basketball with its high-flying dunks or football with its bone-crunching collisions.

But this week's 11th Region baseball tournament generated at least a couple "Did you see that!" moments at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Clint Hollon of Woodford County and Isaac Smith of Madison Central provided the chills and thrills while playing against each other.

Hollon did it with his right arm. Smith did it with his legs.

First, Hollon's feat:

Taking into account that the radar gun at the Legends' park is a little on the slow side, the sophomore right-hander's fastball hit 96 mph a couple times, and was consistently in the low 90s against Madison Central. Hollon doesn't throw just heat. He's got a curveball, slider and change-up. too. "He's very competitive and he's got an idea of how to pitch," said Woodford County assistant Jeff Parrett, a former big-league pitcher.

Hollon, who committed to the University of Kentucky last fall, is a solidly built 6-foot-1, 190-pounder. "He's got amazing talent," Woodford County Coach Jay Lucas said. "And he's got heart, will power and determination."

Hollon, a transfer from Lafayette, tries not to get caught up in the hype that will only increase over the next couple years. "I try to stay on an even keel," he said. "God blessed me with my ability and I want to do my best with it."

Would he like to hit that magic number of 100 mph with his fastball someday??

"That'd be amazing," he said. "Triple digits is a whole different level. If I strengthen my arm and body, maybe I can touch it one day."

Madison Central's Smith had the daring play of the week. He stole home with two outs and two strikes on the batter in the bottom of the fifth against Hollon. That was the difference in Madison Central's 2-1 victory.

Indians Coach Steve Roof said he didn't tell Smith to steal home. "It was his decision. He had the green light. It was a gutsy play by a senior. When he took off, my heart was fluttering, and you could hear the crowd gasp."

Smith, who's going to Bradley University, almost beat Hollon's pitch to the plate, and Woodford County's catcher had no idea he was coming. What kind of rush did Smith feel when he slid safely across the plate?" A big one," he said. "Probably comparable to getting a shot of adrenalin at the hospital."

■ Defending state baseball champ Harrison County lost to Bourbon County 4-3 in 11 innings in the 10th Region semifinals Wednesday night. The Thorobreds had won the region 19 of the previous 25 years. Kyle Harris drove in the winning run for Bourbon County. The Colonels' got a strong performance from 6-9 junior Chase Mullins, who pitched into the sixth. Chris Norman got the win in relief. Bourbon County met Clark County in the 10th finals Thursday night.

Twelve other defending region champs have been eliminated from the playoffs: Lone Oak (1st Region), Hopkinsville (2nd), Daviess County (3rd), Warren Central (4th), Butler (6th), Male (7th), Shelby County (8th), Boone County (9th), Lexington Christian (11th), West Jessamine (12th), Perry Central (14th and Greenup County (16th).

Six region champs were crowned Wednesday night: Union County (2nd), Apollo (3rd), Warren East (4th), Central Hardin (5th), Lexington Catholic (11th) and Mercer County (12th).

■ Defending state softball champ Reidland lost to Calloway County 6-5 in the 1st Region finals Wednesday night. Nine other defending region champs have been bumped from the playoffs: Christian County (2nd), Green County (5th), Mercy (7th), Shelby County (8th), Clark County (10th), Scott County (11th), Somerset (12th), Jenkins (14th) and Lawrence County (15th).

Seven region champs have been crowned: Calloway County (1st), Owensboro Catholic (3rd), Central Hardin (5th), Montgomery County (10th), Lafayette (11th), East Jessamine (12th) and Letcher Central (14th).

■ Jimmy Dugan, the baseball manager (played by Tom Hanks) in the movie A League of Their Own, uttered the memorable line, "There's no crying in baseball!" If Dugan had been at the 11th Region tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark this week, he might have yelped: "There are no water breaks in baseball!" New safety measures adopted by the KHSAA require that if the heat index on the diamond reaches the upper 90s, there must be 10-minute water breaks every 30 minutes. I'm all for caution and safety when it comes to kids. I completely get the mandatory water breaks in football when the heat is on. But water breaks in baseball and softball? Players spend each half inning in dugouts where they can "hydrate" all they want. Just make sure plenty of water is available. If umpires get overheated, they can call time and take a break. Talking with dozens of people (players, parents, coaches and, yes, even trainers), they all agreed that mandatory water breaks aren't necessary. While the baseball region was going on, the region softball tournament was being played at UK under the same sun. But the heat index at the UK softball complex never rose to the point where water breaks were required. Hmmm.

■ Bob Griggs is retiring as softball coach at Lexington Catholic. Griggs has been the Knights' coach for 19 years, which included the transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch in 1995. He has a record of 319-262-1 in 17 seasons of fast-pitch, including one region title. He was inducted into the Kentucky Prep Softball Hall of Fame in 2000. Griggs created the association's Web site in 1999 and still maintains it.

■ When Rowan County junior Adam Wing changed his mind this week and decided to play college basketball at Oklahoma State instead of football at Marshall, he boosted his stock as a Mr. Basketball candidate. Wing, who hit 12 of 13 three-pointers in the Sweet Sixteen semifinals and finals, will get state-wide exposure next season. Rowan Coach Shawn Thacker has put together a schedule that includes a showdown with Trinity in the Farm Bureau Classic in Pikeville; the King of the Bluegrass at Christmastime, and a game against Hopkinsville in Rupp Arena in January. If there's any doubt about how much Wing likes basketball, consider that when Thacker went looking for him on Tuesday to tell him to contact Oklahoma State Coach Travis Ford about a scholarship offer, Thacker found Wing in a city park, on a scorching-hot day, playing hoops against Morehead State's Maze Stallworth.

■ In the past two weeks, Jeff Morrow resigned as boys' basketball coach at Jeffersontown, and Tim Riley announced he's leaving Warren Central to join the women's staff at Western Kentucky University. Their departures mean only two of the 11 coaches whose teams won the boys' Sweet Sixteen since 2000 are still at those schools: Billy Hicks at Scott County (2007 champs) and Chris O'Hearn at Mason County (2008 champs). The other nine coaches have either resigned, retired or moved to other jobs. Kerry Stovall resigned a month after leading Christian County to the 2011 title. Jason Booher left Shelby Valley (2010 champs) for Holmes. David Henley left Holmes (2009 champs) for North Oldham. Morrow resigned at J-town (2006 champs) after 12 years and 250 victories. Steve Wright announced a few weeks ago he was leaving South Laurel (2005 champs) for Southwestern. Riley bid goodbye to Warren Central (2004 champs) where he led the Dragons to eight region titles in the past nine years. Kelly Wells left Mason County (2003 champs) for the college ranks. He led Pikeville College to an NAIA national title in March. Danny Haney left Lexington Catholic (2002 champs) for a job in Florida. Donnie Adkins retired from Lafayette (2001 champs).

■ Former Lexington Catholic pitching star Nick Maronde helped Florida win the SEC baseball title and earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Maronde, a junior left-hander, was used as a reliever this spring. He appeared in 30 games and led the Gators with a 1.72 ERA. He had 49 strikeouts and six walks in 37 innings.

■ Mason County senior point guard Jordan Gilbert will play basketball at Transylvania. Gilbert was a key part of the Royals' Sweet Sixteen teams as a sophomore and junior. He will play for the Kentucky All-Stars against Indiana next weekend. The all-stars will scrimmage a group of junior all-stars at Anderson County Monday at 6:30 p.m.

■ Western Hills senior second baseman Logan Coffey will play baseball at Marietta College in Ohio. Marietta won a record fifth NCAA Division III title this week.

■ Condolences to the family of William B. May, who died last week at age 74. Mr. May was the uncle of Bart and Phil Rison, longtime Montgomery County coaches and administrators. Mr. May, who played basketball at Estill County, was a referee and an avid golfer.

■ To correct an item in last week's notebook, Nick Goldey had four goals to lead Paul Laurence Dunbar to a 9-6 victory over Ballard in the Division II finals of the Kentucky Lacrosse Association state tournament.

Mike Fields covers high school sports for the Herald-Leader. Reach him at (859) 231-3337 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3337, or mfields@herald-leader.com.