Ethan Doty said he didn't see the biggest pitch he's ever thrown in his life.
Doty, a Highlands sophomore right-hander, was in a tight spot in the seventh inning in the quarterfinals of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark Wednesday night.
The Bluebirds led 3-1, but North Bullitt had the bases loaded with two outs, and had its best hitter, Logan Wyatt, at the plate.
Wyatt took a ball then fouled off two pitches.
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Doty isn't sure what happened next.
"I blacked out almost," he said. "I just let it go and thought, please, hit the mitt somewhere."
It hit the outside corner for a called third strike before it hit the mitt of catcher Luke Hennigan and preserved the biggest Highlands' baseball victory in 50 years.
The No. 20 Bluebirds are in the state semifinals for the first time since 1965.
Doty was one of several heroes for Highlands.
Ricky Raisor started on the mound and worked into the seventh inning before giving way to Doty.
Raisor, a junior righthander, gave up five hits and a run. He had five strikeouts and walked one while improving his record to 9-1.
"Ricky grinded it out against a real good hitting team," Coach Jeremy Baioni said. "(Doty) didn't make it easy on us, but he got it done."
North Bullitt starter Chase McKenzie fared well against hard-hitting Highlands. He gave up seven hits and three runs in 51⁄3 innings. He struck out three and walked two. Those two walks came back to haunt him, though.
After No. 18 North Bullitt scratched out a run in the second on Keaton Reitz's RBI single, Highlands edged ahead in the third.
Brady Murray beat out an infield single, and Todd Ramey and Jake Whitford walked with two outs.
D.J. Mills, a star defensive tackle on Highlands' state championship football team, delivered a big hit by slashing a single to right. Murray and Ramey scored to put the Birds up 2-1.
"I was just seeing the ball well today," Mills said. "I felt I could hit it to the opposite field."
Highlands added a big insurance run in the sixth.
Alex Veneman, a star wide receiver and state track champ (400 meters), was on second with one out. Murray bunted to third, and when the North Bullitt fielder threw to first, Veneman raced around third and headed for home. He slid in ahead of the tag to make it 3-1.
"It was a called play," Doty said. "Veneman's our fastest runner from second base. He's scored every time."
North Bullitt had threatened in the top of the sixth when Wyatt and Jacob Kelly led off with back-to-back singles. (They gave way to pinch runners Austin Trammell and Alec Lush.) Dalton Casey bunted down the first base line for what looked like a hit. But when Casey took a a few steps out of the batter's box, the ball hit his foot and he was called out.
Raisor then struck out Ryan Henson, and on the same pitch Hennigan threw out Trammell trying to steal third to end the inning.
"The bunted ball hits our runner's foot, or it would've been bases loaded no outs," Eagles Coach Brian Wise said.
"Game of inches and missed opportunities."
As for the game-ending called third strike on Wyatt, Wise said, "Logan has a terrific eye as a hitter. Probably the best I've ever been around.
"Obviously, he thought it was well outside."
HIGHLANDS 3, NORTH BULLITT 1
North Bullitt 010 000 0—1 6 2
Highlands 002 001 x—3 7 1
Chase McKenzie, Jacob Kelly (6) and Chance Egnor. Ricky Raisor and Luke Hennigan. 2B—Alex Veneman (H).
Records: North Bullitt 32-12, Highlands 34-6