High School Sports

Nothing lucky about it: Record-setting West Jessamine claims first state baseball title

"It's not about me," said West Jessamine Coach Jody Hamilton, center, who became the first coach to win state championships at two schools (Boyle County, 2001). " ... The dear Lord has given me so many good things, and he gave me another great ball team."
"It's not about me," said West Jessamine Coach Jody Hamilton, center, who became the first coach to win state championships at two schools (Boyle County, 2001). " ... The dear Lord has given me so many good things, and he gave me another great ball team." Herald-Leader

It wasn't the lucky camouflage jerseys.

It wasn't the lucky penny they found on their way to the ballpark Saturday night.

It wasn't the lucky wheelbarrow (yes, wheelbarrow!) their coach picked up from the middle of the road on the way to a region game.

No, the West Jessamine Colts won their first state baseball championship because they were far and away the best hitting team in the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament.

West Jessamine battered Highlands 10-3 in Saturday night's title game. It was more of the same offensive might it showed in hammering Ballard 11-6 in the first round, Elizabethtown 12-6 in the quarterfinals and Scott 15-4 in the semifinals.

They totaled a record 48 runs on 46 hits and batted a robust .383 in four games.

How to explain such hitting?

"I don't know," said sophomore outfielder Kendall Peters. "We usually have really tight games. This was the only time this season we hit the ball all over the place."

Cheered on by their fans, who made up the majority of the 3,202 fans in Whitaker Bank Ballpark, the Colts bolted out of the gate looking like American Pharoah.

After scoring six runs in the top of the first against Highlands, they weren't about to be caught.

After getting so-so pitching in its first three wins, West Jessamine got a strong performance from Joe Ivey in the finals. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior right-hander went the distance, scattering seven hits, striking out seven and walking nobody to improve his record to 8-1.

"He was really the man tonight," Coach Jody Hamilton said.

The Colts again got big hits from their entire lineup.

Ryan Layne and Emerson James, who bat eighth and ninth, combined to go 4-for-6 with three RBI and two runs.

Peters had two hits and three RBI. Tucker Greer had two hits and two runs. And tournament MVP Trey Merida's bases-loaded triple in the seventh sent the West Jessamine fans over the edge and into ecstasy.

When Ivey got the final out, the Colts' dugout emptied and there was a dog-pile party beside the mound.

"It's surreal right now," senior designated hitter Maxx Mahon said. "This is what we dreamed of. This is what every kid works for in his high school career, to get a chance at a championship game.

"We had a lot of fun this week, and it just happened to be a perfect ending to a perfect season."

Highlands Coach Jeremy Bainoi, whose school was making its first appearance in the finals, said the first inning was a killer.

"West Jessamine has been on fire all week offensively, and we were a little up in the zone in the first, and that's all it took. We've preached about playing seven innings, 21 outs all year. I thought we were good enough offensively to come back. Unfortunately, we weren't able to."

West Jessamine, the first 12th Region team to win the state title since Somerset in 1974, finished the season on an 11-game winning streak for a 36-7 record.

Hamilton became the first coach to win state baseball titles at two schools. He also led Boyd County to the 2001 championship.

Hamilton shrugged it off.

"It's not about me," he said. "I'm humbled, believe me. The dear Lord has given me so many good things, and he gave me another great ball team."

Hamilton said what gives him the most satisfaction is knowing "these boys will have memories to cherish for the rest of their lives."

As for those lucky charms, the Colts wore the same camouflage jerseys the last six games of the playoffs, although they did get them washed between games.

Peters said the team trainer found a heads-up penny on the way to the finals and figured it signaled good fortune.

And the wheelbarrow?

Hamilton saw it in the middle of the road while driving his pick-up truck ahead of the team bus on the way to Wayne County for the completion of the region game against Southwestern.

He tossed the wheelbarrow into the back of his truck, and him being superstitious, it's been there ever since.

He should have used it to haul the state championship trophy into the Colts' championship celebration at the school late Saturday night.

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