Paintsville earned a trip to the state baseball tournament for the first time in nearly 30 years this season and the Tigers aren't ready to go home just yet. A two-run homer by sophomore Seth Williams in the bottom of the first inning proved to be all that was needed to back up a brilliant outing by starting pitcher Mason Moore as Paintsville knocked off Christian County 3-1 in its opening-round game at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Friday.
Moore gave up a solo home run and a single in the top of the first as Christian County took a 1-0 lead, but the freshman phenom was nearly flawless after that. A walk was all he allowed the rest of the way as he tossed a complete-game two-hitter, striking out four and improving to 7-0 on the year.
Williams manufactured an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when he stole two bases after being hit by a pitch and then scored on a throwing error.
The Tigers will face Highlands in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 6 p.m. as they continue their first state tournament trip since winning the championship in 1990.
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Bluebirds advance again
Highlands finds itself in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row after the Bluebirds turned back a late rally, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning to secure a 4-2 win over South Oldham.
Highlands took a 2-1 lead on Ethan Kavanaugh's two-run single in the bottom of the fourth, then went up 4-1 on Sam Hennigan's two-run single in the sixth. Those runs proved crucial, as South Oldham loaded the bases in the final inning, then scored on a walk to move the tying run to second base. But Bluebirds starting pitcher Drew Rom drew a flyout to end it, finishing off a complete game in which he struck out 10 batters and improved to 9-6 on the year.
Highlands will now look to improve on last year's postseason run, in which they fell to eventual state champ PRP, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.
St. X topples defending champs
Heading into the final inning of the tournament's marquee opening-round game on Thursday, two of the favorites to take home the title had fought to a 7-7 standstill. Then the floodgates opened.
St. Xavier's offense erupted for six runs in the seventh inning, punctuated by a towering two-run homer by Cam Scheler, and the Tigers buried defending state champion Pleasure Ridge Park 13-7.
"That was so exciting," Scheler said of his exclamation-point bomb. "I'd been missing some all day but I had my timing down and it was just a matter of time before I got one in the zone and hit it well."
When the tournament draw was announced, the winner between St. X (34-2) and PRP (28-7) looked like the heavy favorite to come out of the top half of the bracket. In the last coaches' poll of the regular season St. X was ranked No. 1 and PRP was ranked fourth. Now the Tigers will move on to Saturday's quarterfinals as they pursue the program's second state championship in the last three years.
Boyle crushes LaRue
Boyle County wasted no time eclipsing its run in last year's state tournament, where the Rebels fell in the first round. Boyle dominated LaRue County, cruising to a 10-0, five-inning run-rule win in Thursday's nightcap to set up a showdown with St. Xavier in Saturday's quarterfinals.
Rebels Coach Kyle Wynn said he could sense that last year’s first-round loss to Knox Central was on some of his players’ minds heading into this year’s tournament.
“We’ve got some business on our mind this year,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious … there’s a sense of urgency.
“They’ve kind of figured out that we belong up here.”
Grant Hotchkiss set the tone on the game's first pitch, which he blasted over the right-field wall for a lead-off home run.
The Rebels know they face a tall task in Saturday’s matchup with St. Xavier, but Wynn is confident they’re up to the challenge.
“We’re aware of what we’re up against but I don’t doubt our effort that you’re gonna get Saturday,” he said. “We’re here to make some noise.”