High School Baseball

Furious finish sends Lexington team to state tournament for first time in 5 years

Trenton Taylor scores a run and celebrates with teammates during the second game of semi-state at UK. Tates Creek Commodores took on the Somerset Briar Jumpers at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, June 1st, 2019.
Trenton Taylor scores a run and celebrates with teammates during the second game of semi-state at UK. Tates Creek Commodores took on the Somerset Briar Jumpers at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, June 1st, 2019. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Tates Creek sophomore Grant Stone stepped onto the mound facing a 2-1 deficit after three innings against Somerset in their semi-state duel on Saturday. A late flurry made he and his teammates winners.

Four runs scored on four hits in the top of the seventh allowed Tates Creek to walk away with a 6-2 victory over the Briar Jumpers and secure their first appearance in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament since 2014. They’re the most recent team from Lexington to qualify for state in the same span.

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With the game tied at 2 runs apiece, Somerset seemed in good position to keep Tates Creek at bay into the top of the seventh. Blayne Deaton grounded out to start the inning before shortstop Eli Tencza tripled. That hit was followed by another groundout by Chandler Workman.

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Eli Tencza dives during Tates Creek’s 6-2 win over Somerset during the semi-state round Saturday at UK’s Kentucky Proud Park. Quinlan Ulysses Foster aslitz@herald-leader.com

Then, winter came for Somerset: Stone walked ahead of a Mason Gentry double, scoring Tencza and Trenton Taylor, who pinch ran for Stone. Antonio Chambers doubled, scoring Hayden Dunham (running for Gentry), and then scored on a dropped fly ball in right field. Two Briar Jumpers reached base after Stone quickly put two away with strikeouts, but a groundout finished the night.

“I just trusted my team,” said Stone, who struck out six while giving up two hits and no walks. “If I was gonna not give up any runs, then they were gonna get the runs up on the board with the bats, and that’s exactly what they did. It’s them, not me.”

Stone was deferential despite a recent style shake-up caused by his teammates: He sported a mohawk on the mound, and said everyone agreed to shave their heads into mohawks in solidarity after winning the 11th Region tournament. Stone had the misfortune of playing guinea pig.

“Turns out I was the only one that was gonna get it,” Stone said with a laugh. “They told me to go first and see how it looks and, yea, they didn’t do it.”

The Commodores pounced early; they connected three times for hits in the first inning but left the bases loaded. A walk and two more hits — the second an RBI single by Noah Blythe — gave them a 1-0 lead that they maintained through the middle of the third.

Somerset in the bottom of the third evened things on a Cam Ryan single, scoring Pancho Zaragoza. Ryan advanced on a passed ball to put the Briar Jumpers up 2-1, a lead they held until the top of the fifth, when Creek’s Blayne Deaton scored on a throwing error.

Tates Creek dinged Somerset’s top two pitchers — University of Louisville commit Kade Grundy and Jonathan Phipps — for 12 hits and four walks. Grundy had a game-high 10 strikeouts before exiting after five innings as he drew close to the pitch-count limit.

Deaton started for Tates Creek, striking out four while giving up two hits and a walk.

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