High School Sports

Mike Fields: State baseball tournament full of aces

Lexington Catholic's Logan Taylor was greeted by teammates after scoring a run in the Knights' 3-1 victory over Tates Creek in the 11th Region title game. Catholic is ranked first in the state.
Lexington Catholic's Logan Taylor was greeted by teammates after scoring a run in the Knights' 3-1 victory over Tates Creek in the 11th Region title game. Catholic is ranked first in the state.

A few facts, in lieu of fungoes, as we warm up for the Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament, which begins its weeklong run at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Monday:

■ The 16-team field includes No. 1 Lexington Catholic, No. 2 St. Xavier, No. 4 Central Hardin, No. 9 Pleasure Ridge Park, No. 11 Apollo, No. 19 Lawrence County and No. 21 Clay County. Central Hardin and Clay County are the only teams back from last year.

■ Former champs in the field: St. Xavier (1942, '45, '49, '51, '81); PRP (1994, '95, '96, 2008); Newport Central Catholic (1946, '50, '54, '56), and Lexington Catholic (1999, 2006, '09).

■ Three first-time region winners are coming to town: Union County (2nd Region), North Oldham (8th) and Mercer County (12th).

■ Coaching experience covers the spectrum, from Bill Miller, in his 32nd year at PRP with 946 victories, including four state championships, to Taylor Brooks, in his first season in charge at Lexington Catholic. PRP and Lexington Catholic will face off in the first round of the state tournament. The last time they met in a post-season game was in the 1999 state finals at UK's Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Knights won 4-2 in nine innings as Mark Michael pitched a complete game.

■ There will be no shortage of aces on the mound in Whitaker Bank Ballpark. Among them: UK signees Taylor Martin of Lexington Catholic, Chandler Shepherd of Lawrence County and Ryan Loehnert of St. X, Western Kentucky University signee Matt Spalding of St. X, Louisville signee Mark Biggs of Warren East and Miami of Ohio signee Clay Cinnamon of Mercer County. (Matthew Honchel of Mercer County, an outfielder, also signed with Miami.)

■ Lawrence County's Chandler Shepherd didn't walk a batter in May or June. On the season he has 138 strikeouts and only eight walks. Shepherd's 40 career victories rank fifth in the state record books.

■ Players swinging the hottest aluminum bats: PRP's Cody Angus .557 (49-for-88); Clay County's John Wilson .552 (53-for-96); Central Hardin's Russ Morse .520 (52-for-100); Mercer County's Matthew Honchel .496 (59-for-119); and Clark County's T.K. Korb .491 (54-for-110).

■ Luke Guhy of Mayfield and Brady Hightchew of Newport Central Catholic quarterbacked their football teams to state titles last fall, and now they've helped their baseball teams get to Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

■ Mayfield, with a 10-16 record, should remember what Owensboro did two years ago. Those Red Devils were 10-15 after winning the region, then proceeded to win two sectional games and two state tournament games before losing to Lexington Catholic in the state finals.

■ Central Hardin Coach Todd Thompson has his team in the state tournament for the second year in a row. Thompson also played in the final four for Elizabethtown in 1992. He helped pitch the Panthers to a 2-1 victory over Middlesboro in the semifinals, but E-town got blasted by Lafayette 14-2 in the finals. "We ran into a buzz saw," Thompson recalled. Generals' pitcher Curtis Whitney had 17 K's in that title game.

■ Mercer County marked its first 12th Region title by dousing Coach Jeremy Shope with Gatorade. Also getting splashed was Drew McGill, who was in a wheelchair beside Shope. McGill came out for the team this year as a senior, and Shope kept him when the other seniors told the coach how much they liked McGill and how much a team player he was. A month into the season, though, McGill was in a serious car accident that left him in a wheelchair. He returned to cheer on Mercer County in the region finals, and was in the middle of the post-game celebration, sharing the Gatorade shower with his coach.

■ Nobody has enjoyed the recent sunny weather more than Clark County Coach Larry Allison and his Cardinals, who suffered through the wet spring more than most teams. "Halfway through the season, I couldn't wait for it to be over," Allison said. The rainy weather kept Clark County from getting in a home game between March 29 and May 20. "Water stood on our field most of that time," Allison said. The Cards were able to take indoor batting practice, but their fielding suffered. "We were probably the worst defensive team in the state for a long time," Allison said. "Once we got on the field again in the post-season, we got a lot better."

■ The Kentucky-Indiana all-star basketball rivalry resumes this weekend. They play Friday in Louisville at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall, and Saturday in Indianapolis in Conseco Fieldhouse. Indiana has owned the boys' series in recent years, winning 21 of the last 24 games. Kentucky's boys haven't won in Indianapolis since 1996. Kentucky's girls have split the last six games against the Hoosiers.

■ David Camic, who won 530 games and three region titles in 20 years of coaching baseball at Boyle County and Danville, is retiring. Camic was at Danville for nine years before taking a few years off. He returned to coaching at Boyle County and has been there the last 11 seasons.

■ William Green is the new wrestling coach at Lafayette. He takes over for Chris McCoy, who's leaving to start a program at Male. McCoy wrestled for Green at Tates Creek, where Green coached for more than 10 years starting in the mid-1980s. Green, a former UK wrestler who helped McCoy at Lafayette the last few years, said it "makes me proud and happy" to see one of his former wrestlers start wrestling "at such a prestigious school as Male." When Green was at Tates Creek, he had two state champs — Mike Migliaccio and Tom Cibull.

■ Paul Laurence Dunbar's Hannah Masengale, who excelled in the classroom and on the softball field, signed with Centre College. Masengale had a 4.3 weighted GPA and a 31 on the ACT. She led Dunbar in doubles and RBI.

■ Dunbar infielder Brad Harp will play college baseball at Georgetown College.

■ Pro baseball scouts will find talent even if a player doesn't have a high school team to display his skills. Brandon Nimmo of Cheyenne, Wyo., was a first-round draft choice of the New York Mets this week. Since Wyoming high schools don't play baseball, Nimmo got noticed playing for an American Legion team, and in showcases in Florida and Arizona.

■ William Unseld is the new boys' basketball coach at Warren Central. He succeeds Tim Riley, who left the Dragons to join the women's staff at Western Kentucky. Unseld played for Warren Central in the 1990s and was assistant coach under Riley.

■ Greenup County has hired Jim Youngman to be its boys' basketball coach. Youngman had been at Metamora Township, just outside Peoria, Ill.

■ Former Bryan Station basketball player James Evans signed with East Mississippi Community College.

■ Scott County lineman Tucker Conway signed with Samford University, which is coached by former Auburn star Pat Sullivan, who won the 1971 Heisman Trophy.

■ Arlando Johnson, a basketball star at Apollo and Eastern Kentucky University in the early 1990s, is the new girls' coach at Apollo. He had been an assistant with the boys' program.

■ Candace Rose Gray, who played for Jackson County's powerhouse teams in the early 2000s, is Jackson County's new girls' coach.

■ James "Cooley" Clay, a star basketball player at Bryan Station and Transylvania in the 1970s, died a couple weeks ago at age 55. Larry Blackford, who was his teammate at Transy, said Mr. Clay was the most unselfish player he'd ever seen. "He always looked to pass first," Blackford said. "He's still the all-time assists leader at Transy. He was a very caring person, a good person, who always had a great smile."

■ Kevin Siple is Bracken County's new football coach. Siple, who played at Highlands and Georgetown College, coached at Cincinnati Indian Hills for many years. He resigned after the 2008 season to spend more time with his family. But after two years away, he got the itch again. "My wife and I have always wanted to be in a small town, so when Bracken County opened up, we thought this is where we're supposed to be. I absolutely love the place."

■ Rowan County football coach ShaDon Brown is leaving the Vikings to become cornerbacks coach at Wofford College. Brown spent the past three seasons at Rowan County, which finished 10-2 last fall and won its conference for the first time since 1982.

■ Kevin Furtado is Union County's new girls' basketball coach. He coached in Georgia private schools for 21 years, the last four at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Ga.

■ Blue Grass Baptist beat Heritage Christian of Hopkinsville to win its fifth consecutive Kentucky Christian Athletic Association (KCAA) fast-pitch softball title. Blue Grass Baptist catcher Rebecca Robinson was tournament MVP. Sarah Dugger was the winning pitcher in the finals.

■ Wendy's is accepting applications for its 2011 high school Heisman award, which honors students who excel in academics, athletics and community service. Eligible seniors-to-be can apply on-line through Oct. 2 at www.wendyheisman.com.