Every coach who’s led the Tates Creek baseball program has won an 11th Region title.
Of course, only three men have sat in that chair since Tates Creek opened in the 1965-66 school year: Ron Cole, Dom Fucci and Larry Poynter, the latter adding his name to the list of region champs when the Commodores defeated Lafayette, 7-1, in this year’s finals on Wednesday, to win their first regional since 2014.
Poynter starred for Cole as a catcher, helping Tates Creek reach the state championship game in 1990. He’s now in his fourth season as Creek’s head coach after succeeding Fucci, under whom he spent the first 10 years of his coaching career as an assistant, from 1995-2004. He got his first head coaching shot at Bryan Station, leading the Defenders to their first winning season in 2008, and then five years at Paul Laurence Dunbar before getting the keys to his alma mater in June 2015.
“That’s one of the first guys I spotted in the stands after we won, was Dom,” Poynter said. “Being able to take over for him was always a dream of mine.”
Poynter fought off tears as he continued.
“The guy taught me everything I know about baseball. It means a lot. He’s a Creek guy and I’m a Creek guy, and to be able to do this, it’s pretty awesome.”
The seniors on this year’s roster are the first group to have learned under Poynter from start to finish through their high school career.
“It’s like being a proud parent. No different than I would hug my own kids, they’re my boys,” Poynter said of his players. “I’m just so excited for them, to see how they’ve grown over the last three to four years. They deserve this, they really do. They’ve worked their tails off.”
▪ Wichita State signee Colin Burgess, a catcher, is batting a team-best .393 this season (minimum 20 games) in 117 at-bats. He’s hit nine home runs, more than twice that of the next guy on the list (Noah Blythe, who has four).
▪ Blayne Deaton leads the Commodores (31-7) with 32 RBI this season and also has scored more runs (41) than any other player on the team. The first baseman also boasts a .993 fielding percentage, second behind Burgess’s .995, and has committed only one error in 208 chances this season. He’s helped turn 15 double plays.
▪ No one’s better at reaching than junior Chandler Workman: He has a .509 on-base percentage in 35 games played. He’s drawn 16 walks, been hit by nine pitches, reached on four fielder’s choice plays and got on via an error once. He also bats .378, second behind Burgess.
▪ Griffin Prince is greedy between the bags: The senior leads the team with 15 stolen bases, right ahead of Workman (12) and senior Byron Smith (10).
▪ Konnor Lewis is 8-1 on the mound this season with a 1.38 ERA in 12 appearances and 61 total innings pitched. Eli Tencza, who pitched in the region finals, has a team-low 0.87 ERA and has thrown the second-most innings (47.1) for the Commodores.
Somerset, which last year didn’t qualify for its region tournament, upset Danville, the No. 8 team in the final coaches’ poll of the regular season, to don the 12th Region crown for the first time since 2007. The Briar Jumpers will play the Commodores for their first state-tournament berth since 1981.
The Briar Jumpers are 22-12 and have won their last five games, including a 14-1 shellacking of Rockcastle County (which swept them in the regular season) and the win over Danville, who defeated them for the 12th Region All “A” Classic title in mid-April.
Sophomore Kade Grundy is the biggest name to watch out of Somerset. He’s batting .473 this season and leads the Briar Jumpers in home runs (seven), stolen bases (17), walks (26) and runs scored (51). The University of Louisville commit has pitched 49.1 innings, delivering 57 strikeouts and a team-best 1.84 ERA.
Tates Creek vs. Somerset
What: Semi-State 6 matchup
Where: UK’s Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Records: Tates Creek 31-7, Somerset 22-12