Scott County baseball coach Scott Willard was happy that Lafayette never took a lead on Saturday. He thought that could have been enough to do in the two-time defending 11th Region champions.
The Generals tried. They twice erased Scott County leads — 3-0 after two innings and 5-3 after three — but Scott County answered in every instance and kept Lafayette's final rally bid at bay in the seventh inning to leave Woodford County Park with an 8-7 win in the regional semifinals and a berth to its third straight title game.
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Starter Jordan Fox, a junior who's committed to Eastern Kentucky University, went 4 and 2/3 innings for Scott County before senior Brynin Boykin came on to finish the fifth — stranding Lafayette runners at first and second — and pitched through a sixth inning in which Lafayette came up with two runs. Sophomore Cade McKee stepped on for the save and gave up a leadoff single before two flyouts and a fielder's choice ended the game.
McKee drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the first and tacked on what proved to be a decisive eighth run for the Cardinals on an RBI single in the top of the sixth. He was pretty sure Willard was going to put him on the mound in the seventh, but McKee wasn't going to let an ounce of doubt seep into his coach's mind.
"Jordan threw great and I knew we were gonna bring Brynin in because it's good to bring a righty in after a lefty, and when we came in from the sixth I looked at coach and said, 'Gimme the ball, I want to go out there and throw,'" McKee said. "I think he already had his mind made up but I wasn't going to let anyone else go out there. It was gonna be me."
Lafayette rallied from three down in the bottom of the second after senior Matt Guilfoil, hitting in the nine hole, drilled a three-run double to deep left field. Scott County regained the lead on RBIs from Ryan Hannabach and Sam Sutton before Lafayette again tied things in the bottom of the third with plays by John Stinetorf (RBI single) and starting pitcher Tyler Guilfoil (sac fly).
Like clockwork, Sutton came right back around and delivered a two-run homer to left field in the top of the fourth to give Scott County the lead for good, 7-5, scoring himself and Trent Fox, who singled earlier in the inning.
"I knew it was gonna be a fight," McKee said. "They played a hell of a game. That was one good baseball game right there."
Sutton will get the start for the Cardinals in Sunday's region championship, scheduled for 4 p.m. It will be the third straight year the senior has gotten the call in the finals. That experience will matter against either of Scott County's potential opponents; Madison Central hasn't advanced to the last round since 2015 and Woodford County hasn't been since 2012, when it went on to win the state title.
"Either one of those team's haven't been there in a while so, with the past two years, at this point it's just another game for us," Sutton said. "If we can come through and play how we play, I think we'll be fine."