It was an escape worthy of Houdini.
Greenup County led Collins 8-6 going into the bottom of the seventh in the quarterfinals of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament late Wednesday night, but the Musketeers’ lead didn’t look safe when Collins loaded the bases with nobody out.
How did Greenup County freshman closer Kyle Gammon feel standing on the mound in Whitaker Bank Ballpark with midnight approaching and the game on the line?
“It was exciting,” he said. “I just knew I had to throw strikes. I knew my team would make plays behind me.”
Gammon threw a strike to Collins’ star Will McDonald, who smoked a line drive. But it was right at Musketeers’ second baseman Jaxon Keeton.
Keeton made the grab, then flipped to second where shorstop Gage Hughes stepped on the bag for a double play.
Gammon got the final out with a pop-up, and Greenup County had an 8-6 victory and a spot in the state semifinals for the first time since 1996. It will face Highlands on Friday night.
“I don’t know how Houdini feels, but I’ve never felt like this before in my life,” Greenup County Coach Greg Logan said. “I’ve never seen a game like this. It was totally unbelievable.”
It was a back-and-forth battle for seven innings.
Greenup County went up 3-0 in the top of the first, Brody Shoupe and Hughes scored on a Jared Hunt’s squeeze bunt and ensuing throwing error. Wireman’s two-out hit drove in Hunt.
Collins answered with three in its first at-bat. It loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter. Chris Crotzer’s sacrifice fly drove in Robert Sproul. Hunter Perry and Blanton Creque drove in E.J. Burk and Will McDonald.
The Titans took a 4-3 lead in the third on Jay Becherer’s RBI single, and made it 5-3 in the fourth on Bryson Dillow’s run-scoring hit.
Logan said that’s when he told his players to look at the scoreboard. “We’d played about as bad as possible, but we’re only down two runs. I said let’s fix it somehow, some way.”
They did by getting three runs in the fifth. Tristan Downing had the big hit — a soaring triple to center field that drove in Hughes and Hunt to tie it.
Downing then scored on Christian Wireman’s groundout to second to make it 6-5.
After Collins tied it in the sixth, Greenup County pushed across two in the seventh.
Hunt led off with a walk and stole second. Wireman singled to right, and Hunt beat the throw to the plate to make it 7-6.
The Musketeers added another run when Jordan Hill’s squeeze bunt brought in pinch runner Michael Clevenger.
Greenup County got good relief pitching from Wireman, Keeton and Gammon. Wireman worked three innings and gave up two runs. Keeton was on the mound for 2 2/3 innings and gave up one run.
Gammon then slammed the door on Collins’ comeback hopes.
The Musketeers are a young bunch — no seniors on the roster — yet they’ve won 24 games in a row against Kentucky competition.
“What can yo say about those young kids?” Logan said. “I don’t know how they do it.
“I don’t know how long this state tournament has been going on, but I guarantee you nobody has had more fun that those 15- and 16-year-old kids, and these fans. I don’t know if coach can stand any more. It’s unbelievable.”
GREENUP CO. 8, COLLINS 6
Greenup County 300 030 2 — 8 7 3
Collins 301 101 0 — 6 12 2
Ethan Coldiron, Christian Wireman (1), Jaxon Keeton (4), Kyle Gammon (7) and Brody Shoupe. Austin Jennings, Alex Doyle (4), Bryson Dillow (6) and Chris Crotzer. 3B–Shoupe (GC), Tristan Downing (GC).
Records: Greenup County 34-10; Collins 26-12