Caleb Bruner of Logan County was one pitch away from throwing an eight-inning no-hitter against No. 2 St. Xavier, but then it all unraveled for him and his Cougars in the first round of the Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Tournament on Tuesday.
St. X broke up the no-hitter and wound up pulling out a 2-1 victory, with both runs scoring on an error.
"Honestly, I thought we were dead in the water," St. X Coach Andy Porta said. (Bruner) pitched a heck of a game. He didn't deserve to lose."
Logan County had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth when Cody Hunt delivered a two-out single that scored Dustin Cartas.
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That left Bruner, a 150-pound sophomore right-hander, just three outs away from a no-hitter.
He retired the first two St. X batters on a strikeout and flyout, and he got ahead 0-2 in the count against Nate Stemle. But Bruner's next pitch hit Stemle to keep the Tigers' hopes alive, especially with their best hitter, Austin Clemons, coming up next.
Clemons, a junior catcher who's committed to Louisville, broke up the no-hitter with a hard shot down the third-base line that was too hot for Joe Holiday to handle.
Trace Amshoff, pinch running for Stemle, rolled into third, and Clemons went to second on the throw.
Andrew Hubbs followed with a hard grounder to second that Ryan Basham booted. Amshoff scored easily, and when Basham didn't react quickly, Clemons raced for home, and slid in with the winning run.
"There were two outs, so I was going as soon as (Hubbs) made contact," Clemons said. "I saw the ball squirt away (from Basham) and his head went down a little bit, so I took off."
Logan County Coach Ethan Meguiar said his team got "caught up in the moment" on the last play, "and we couldn't get enough communication to get the ball and get it to home plate."
Bruner, who threw a whopping 125 pitches, was the hard-luck loser. He gave up one hit, two unearned runs, struck out seven, walked five and hit three batters.
But he was upbeat and smiling afterward. "I gave it my all," he said. "They just found a way to put two runs up in bottom of the eighth."
Logan County had only three hits, one off St. X starter Sam Melchior, who threw one-hit shutout ball for six innings. Ben Britt worked the last two innings.
PRP 5, Ashland Blazer 0: PRP senior pitcher Kyle Olliges wastes no time on the mound. He works quickly, and he made quick work of Ashland, throwing a complete-game two-hitter.
"I felt good. I had seven days rest from the regional tournament," Olliges said.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander also liked that his teammates put two runs on the board in the top of the first.
"I was kind of nervous. I'd never pitched in the state tournament before, so those two runs in the first inning were really big," he said. "I could just go out, pitch with confidence, get ahead and cruise through the game."
Olliges had five strikeouts and walked two while improving his record to 10-2.
"A typical performance by Kyle," Coach Bill Miller said. "That's the way we expect him to pitch."
PRP had 10 hits off Ashland ace (and future UK walk-on) Logan Salow.
Ryan Hart, who bats ninth for the Panthers, went 3-for-3. Hunter Johnson had two hits, including an RBI double. Alex Miller had two hits, two runs and an RBI.
"We hit the ball pretty well, but we ran ourselves out of three innings," Miller said. "We can play better."
Ashland Coach Jeff Wilcox thought Salow, who brought a 22-inning scoreless streak to town, "gutted it out" on a day he wasn't his sharpest.
Salow worked six innings, hit three batters, walked two and had four strikeouts.
The No. 21 Tomcats had chances to score. They had two on, nobody out in the second but came up empty. The same story in the third when they left runners at second and third. Their last chance came in the fifth when they put two on with two outs, but Olliges stymied them again.
"We just didn't get the clutch hits that would've given us a couple runs and some confidence," Wilcox said.
Central Hardin 2, Lone Oak 0: Bruins ace Drew Harrington was close to unhittable. The 6-2, 220-pound senior lefthander and Louisville signee, threw a complete-game four-hitter with 15 strikeouts.
It seemed every time Lone Oak put runners in scoring position, Harrington got out of trouble with a K or two.
Harrington improved his record to 10-1 this season.
Top-ranked Central Hardin didn't have much success hitting Lone Oak pitching, either. Purple Flash starter Seth English gave up only three hits in five innings. But Central Hardin got two of them in the third when the cobbled together a two-run rally.
Ben Heideman singled and eventually scored on a fielder's choice. Alex Crowder, who reached on an error, eventually scored on a balk.
Zach Roethemeyer relieved English in the sixth and blanked Central Hardin the last two innings. Roethemeyer and English combined for nine strikeouts.
Central Hardin will play Harrison County in Thursday night's quarterfinals.
This was Lone Oak's swan song in the state tournament. The school will consolidate with Heath and Reidland to form McCracken County High School later this year.
PRP 5, Ashland Blazer 0
Pleasure Ridge Park 200 020 1—5 11 2
Ashland Blazer 000 000 0—0 2 3
Kyle Olliges and Joe Hatcher. Logan Salow, Evan Yongue (7) and Cameron Fritz. 2B—Hunter Johnson (PRP), Alex Miller (PRP).
Records: PRP 35-7: Ashland 26-10
St. Xavier 2, Logan Co. 1
Logan County 000 000 01—1 3 2
St. Xavier 000 000 02—2 1 3
Caleb Bruner and Dustin Cartas. Sam Melchior, Ben Britt (7) and Austin Clemons.
Records: Logan Co. 26-11; St. X 34-4
Central Hardin 2, Lone Oak 0
Central Hardin 002 000 0—2 3 2
Lone Oak 000 000 0—0 3 2
Drew Harrington and Gabe Hogan. Seth English, Zach Roethmeyer (6) and Bryce Wright.
Records: Central Hardin 33-5; Lone Oak 36-6