“A Herculean effort.”
That’s what Scott County Coach Scott Willard said his team would need to overtake Lexington Catholic following the Cardinals’ win over Franklin County in the first round of the 11th Region tournament at Lafayette.
Freshman pitcher Jordan Fox struck out eight batters, Ryan Hannabach drove in three runs and Scott County defeated Lexington Catholic 6-3 on Tuesday to reach its first 11th Region championship game since 2013.
Fox nearly threw a complete game but got into a jam after recording the first out in the bottom of the seventh. Centerfielder Cam Hill came in to relieve and quickly blazed three strikes to get the penultimate out. First baseman Trey Ogle held on to a tough throw from Hannabach to put the Cardinals in position to play for their first ever state-tournament berth.
Hill, a junior who’s committed to the University of Kentucky, has closed several games for the Cards. None was as tense as Tuesday’s bases-loaded situation with the season on the line.
“It’s amazing, it really is,” Hill said of the chance to make history on Wednesday. “You can’t really express it.”
Ogle took a blow to his left shoulder while recording the final out. He didn’t seem to mind.
“I’d do anything for this team,” Ogle said. “... A lot of people didn’t think we’d get past this game. We were a big underdog, and that just fueled us. We were ready to go.”
Lexington Catholic entered ranked No. 8 in the state by Prep Baseball Report; Scott County was unranked.
Unfortunately, Knights Coach Taylor Brooks said, only one team can end the year happy.
“Scott County played a good game, and I thought our guys competed for the most part,” Brooks said. “I’m proud of our guys. ... There’s nothing to hang our head about. On a different day it could have ended a different way. That’s what makes baseball the game we love.”
The Knights entered the final inning down 6-1 after Scott County added three runs with a combination of small ball and taking advantage of some LexCath miscues. A single by Landon Moberly, who finished 2-for-3, and a hit batter got the Knights to within 6-3 before Hill shut them down.
Scott County broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the sixth after Hannabach hit a fly ball that careened over the left-field wall for a two-run homer. Did he think it was headed out of the park?
“Not a chance,” Hannabach said with a laugh. “... It looked like it was settled on ending at the fence, and it just ended up going out.”
Scott County will meet Western Hills, the 9-1 winner of Tuesday’s late semifinal against Henry Clay. Scott County beat Western Hills twice this season.
Can they slay a hydra after taking down the lion?
Fox, Hill (7) and Kopp; Sottile, Ritchie (7) and Moberly. W—Fox. L—Sottile. 2B—SC: Fryman; LC: Grigalis, Moberly. HR—SC: Hannabach.
Records—Scott Co. 26-10, Lexington Catholic 25-13.
Finals at Lafayette
Scott County vs. Western Hills, 6 p.m.