Brian Doyle summed up his senior year of sports at Newport Central Catholic with a smile and with zest:
"It's been a blast!" Doyle said after helping the Thoroughbreds win their opening game in the Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament Tuesday afternoon at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
For Doyle and NewCath juniors Brady Hightchew and Nick Woltermann, the school year has been stuffed with memories that will last a lifetime.
Last fall, they helped NewCath win the Class 2A football title under first-year coach Eddie Eviston. The Thoroughbreds went 13-2, including a 42-0 wipeout of Owensboro Catholic in the title game at Western Kentucky's L.T. Smith Stadium.
This winter, the trio was part of the NewCath basketball program that reached the semifinals of the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic small-school state tournament at EKU's McBrayer Arena. A few weeks later, Coach Grant Brannen's team lost to Dixie Heights in four overtimes in the 9th Region finals and finished the season 26-7.
This spring, with school already out, they're in the starting lineup as NewCath plays in the state baseball tournament. The Thoroughbreds took a 26-9 record into a quarterfinal showdown with Pleasure Ridge Park late Thursday night.
While most high school athletes specialize in one sport, these guys are gamers in three.
"It's something I've done all my life," Hightchew said. "I'm too hyper to do nothing. Playing three sports keeps me occupied and out of trouble."
Doyle explained his obsession: "I love having a ball in my hands, and it's fun meeting new friends and having teammates."
Woltermann, who was on the junior varsity basketball team, can't imagine limiting himself. "I love being active in sports and love all the coaches. This school year has been incredible."
NewCath had success in sports across the board this school year. The girls' track team won the Class A state title. The volleyball team made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament. The girls' basketball team reached the All "A" semifinals. NewCath also won All "A" region titles in boys' soccer and golf, and girls' softball.
■ Bill Miller was in his early years as head coach at Pleasure Ridge Park when he guided the Panthers to the final four in 1982. They lost to unbeaten Madison Central in the finals. "I remember I told one of my assistants to enjoy it because we might never get back," Miller recalled this week. As it turned out, 1982 was just the beginning of a phenomenal run for PRP, which has reached 12 more final fours, won four state titles and been runner-up four times. The Panthers were seeking another final four berth when they played Newport Central Catholic in Thursday night's quarterfinals.
■ When the KHSAA expanded the state baseball tournament from eight teams to 16 last year, the thinking was "bigger is better." Maybe in some ways, but not competitively, at least not this year. This week's first-round games included four mercy-rule routs and a 9-0 romp. That said, PRP's nine-inning 6-5 victory over Lexington Catholic was as good as it gets in high school baseball. Top-notch teams, great crowd, perfect weather, a dramatic comeback and a thrilling finish.
■ Press box musings: It'd be nice to see Apollo's Bob Mantooth win a state title, or at least get to the finals, before his remarkable coaching career is over. There's no nicer or more dedicated guy in the game. ... Felt sorry for Lawrence County pitcher and UK signee Chandler Shepherd when, through not much fault of his own, he allowed seven unearned runs in the second inning against NewCath. He took the loss in the 13-3 debacle, but Shepherd's ERA dipped from 0.67 to 0.65. ... If Larry Allison retires after more than 40 years in coaching, he will go out with a smile. He was an assistant on Clark County's Sweet Sixteen basketball team and head coach of the Cardinals' state tournament baseball team. ... Wish the radar gun had been on Central Hardin's Levi McCamish when he was flying around the bases on a triple against Apollo. And what kind of adrenalin rush do you think Central Hardin's Matt Nichols had when he whacked his grand slam against Apollo? ... In its first state tournament, Mercer County beat Boyd County 13-3 in a game that wasn't over until 12:20 a.m. Despite the late hour, I bet all the Titan players updated their Facebook pages when they got home. ... How cool is it for North Oldham brothers Quint and Connor Heady? They bat 1-2 in the lineup, and play short and second. They're surely savoring this state tournament. Next year Quint will be at NKU, and Connor, a UK recruit, will be a senior.
■ Kevin Clary, who guided Lexington Catholic to the 2009 state baseball title but was let go by the Knights after the 2010 season, is the new coach at East Jessamine. He succeeds Jimmy Hill, who was not rehired after eight years with the Jaguars. "I'm thrilled for the opportunity," Clary said. "The break (away from coaching) was nice because it gave me a chance to spend time with my family. But I was hungry to get back into coaching. Once it's in your blood, you can't get it out. East Jessamine has a really good group of young kids, and they want to get better." Clary will continue to teach at Jessie Clark Middle School in Lexington.
■ Tom Hamm, who as interim softball coach at East Jessamine this spring led the Lady Jaguars to their first region title, has been hired to officially take over the program.
■ Tates Creek senior pitcher Connor Belcher (5-1, 1.28 ERA) signed to play baseball at Asbury.
■ The sixth annual Northeastern Kentucky Senior Bowl East-West football game is at Morehead State on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Coaches are Jason Kinner of Paintsville and Robert Hopkins of Nicholas County.
■ Henry Clay all-city lineman Bo Pollard will play football at Butler University.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar basketball standout Christin Haney will play college hoops at Pikeville.
■ Kentucky Christian football signed Wade Scaggs of Johnson Central and Jarod Ravenscraft of Bath County.
■ Matchups are set for next season's Joe B. Hall Kentucky Prep Classic. The boys' basketball event will be Jan. 21, 2012, at Montgomery County. The lineup: Trinity vs. Madison Central; Bullitt East vs. Rowan County; Ashland Blazer vs. Perry Central; Mason County vs. Pulaski County; Letcher Central vs. Montgomery County.
■ Denny Fugate, who coached M.C. Napier's boys' basketball in the 1980s, is returning to the sidelines as coach at Breathitt County.
■ Curtis Turley is on the move again. After one season as boys' basketball coach at Collins, Turley is leaving to become director of operations for WKU's women's program. WKU will be Turley's 13th hoops job in 31 years. His last four high school stints — at Lexington Catholic, Manual, Warren East and Collins — lasted just one season each. Turley has an overall record of 624-321.
■ Jeffersontown has hired Clay Moody to replace Jeff Morrow as its boys' basketball coach. Moody had been at Christian Academy of Louisville the last two years. J-town moves from the 7th to the 6th region next season.
■ Camron Justice, who averaged more than 20 points as an eighth-grader playing for his dad Raymond Justice at East Ridge last season, is transferring to Knott County Central. Raymond Justice has taken a school administration job in Knott County.
■ James DeRossett is the news boys' basketball coach at Prestonsburg, where his older brother John is the longtime football coach. James has been a Blackcats assistant and also coached Adams Middle School.
■ Indiana Mr. Basketball Cody Zeller told the Indianapolis Star he thinks the summer series against Kentucky is "definitely important. You saw all the fans (at Bellarmine and Conseco Fieldhouse last weekend). It was pretty heated both nights. It was definitely competitive and entertaining for the fans." Zeller's brothers Luke and Tyler also played in the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry. The Kentucky-Indiana series isn't in good shape, though. Indiana's dominance of the boys' rivalry (24 wins in the last 27 games) is part of the problem, but dwindling interest among Hoosier fans is a major concern. Last weekend's games in Indianapolis drew just over 5,000 fans, a far cry from the 10,000-plus in the good ol' days.
■ A Kentucky high school basketball Hall of Fame could find a home in Elizabethtown. The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise reported that a steering committee will work with the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches to make it happen. Ken Trivette, executive director of KABC, said the first Hall of Fame inductees — 12 players and four coaches — have been chosen, but the KABC will wait to announce them when a site for the museum is determined. The KABC wants to host an initial class of 100 inductees and open museum-quality exhibits in 2018 — the 100th anniversary of organized high school basketball in Kentucky.