Lexington Catholic baseball coach Taylor Brooks likes to describe his team as relentless. No matter the score or the situation, he says his Knights play as if it's the last pitch or the last at-bat of a win-or-go-home game.
That's why Brooks was confident his players would rally from an early 3-0 deficit against Lexington Christian in the 43rd District tournament opener at Tates Creek on Monday.
"It was no time to pout or whine or panic," Brooks said. "The guys were relentless. They knew they were fighting to keep playing."
True to Brooks' words, No. 6 Lexington Catholic battled back to beat the Eagles 4-3 and set up a semifinal showdown with No. 10 Tates Creek on Tuesday night.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
No. 7 Paul Laurence Dunbar and Lafayette clash in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
LCA jumped ahead of the Knights with two runs in the first and one in the third. Taylor Blair and Cody Kalinowski did most of the damage, collecting two hits each. Blair also scored twice, and Kalinowski had two RBI.
The Eagles had a chance to add to the lead in the third when they loaded the bases with one out against Corey Wells, who had come on in relief of starter Tom Banahan.
But Wells got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.
"Two of the best strikeouts I've had," the senior righthander said.
Wells had three more strikeouts in the fifth to strand two more LCA runners, and finished with seven K's in four innings of work.
"For the most part my curveball was my out pitch, but I got 'em chasing some high fastballs, too," he said.
Lexington Catholic's offense started chipping away with a run in the bottom of the third. Conner O'Neil doubled and eventually scored on Daniel Little's sacrifice fly.
The Knights got another run in the fourth. Riley Jackson's two-out single got things going. Logan Banks walked and O'Neil had an infield single to load the bases. Logan Taylor's single drove in Jackson to make it 3-2.
Lexington Catholic took the lead in the fifth, helped by an LCA error on Taylor Henley's grounder. Evan Fraliex's double chased home pinch-runner Nick Nash to tie it. Trey Miller, who reached on a walk, scored the go-ahead run on Jackson's sacrifice fly.
LCA didn't go quietly in the seventh. Blair singled with one out before Knights' lefty Ben Coates came on in relief of Wells. He got a fielder's choice to erase Blair at second. Kalinowski drew a two-out walk to keep the Eagles' hopes alive, though.
Brooks brought in Fraliex, a righty, to finish up. He did his job by getting a game-ending force-out at second.
Fraliex, echoing his coach, said the Knights never felt anxious about being down early against LCA. "We've been playing so well lately, we were confident we could come back. We just did what we had to do to win."
Lexington Catholic has won 13 of its last 14 games.
While LCA Coach Keith Galloway was pleased with his pitchers (Ryan Bale, Kalinowski and Drew Schacht), he bemoaned his team's inability to cash in its early scoring chances.
"That's the story of this game and our season," he said. "We had so many opportunities to put teams away, but we didn't execute," he said. "It's disappointing."
Lex. Catholic 4, Lex. Christian 3
Lexington Christian 201 000 0—3 8 1
Lexington Catholic 001 120 x—4 7 1
Ryan Bale, Cody Kalinowski (3), Bale (3), Drew Schacht (5) and Isaac Shewmaker. Tom Banahan, Corey Wells (2), Ben Coates (7), Evan Fraliex (7) and Riley Jackson. 2B--Kalinowski (LCA), Fraliex (LC), Conner O'Neil (LC).
Records: LCA 15-17; Lexington Catholic 27-7