High School Baseball

‘I’m ready to play.’ It’s Lexington vs. western Kentucky for the state baseball title.

McCracken County’s reached the mountain; now it just has to plant a flag.

The Mustangs defeated Trinity, 6-5, on Saturday to secure their first appearance in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament championship game. They’ll play Tates Creek, a 5-1 winner earlier in the day, at 1 p.m. Sunday for the state title.

McCracken County broke through to the final round after falling in the state semifinals each of the last three seasons. They achieved the feat despite leaving 14 runners on base. Grant Davis launched a sac fly, scoring Ben Higdon, to score the run that mattered most at the end.

BOX SCORE: McCracken County 6, Trinity 5

“We have a young team, and that’s kinda something that’s been our m.o. this year,” McCracken County Coach Geno Miller said. “I know our guys are gonna get better at it, but more times than not those things will come back and bite you.”

Garrett Crabtree got the win for McCracken after relieving Dylan Schneider. He pitched the final 3 and 1/3 innings, allowing only two walks and no hits to shut down Trinity’s scoring after a productive fourth inning.

The Shamrocks struck first, using a Daylen Lile single and Davis Crane double to go up 1-0 before stranding two in the game’s first half inning. McCracken County responded aggressively: Higdon, Elijah Wheat and Grant Davis singled in succession to open their half of the first and match the Shamrocks’ score. Logan Verble doubled to put the Mustangs in front before a ground out and a Reese Hutchins single scored two more runs.

McCracken County’s Elijah Wheat (10) tags out Trinity’s Braden Barry (13) as he ran toward first during the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament semifinals on Saturday. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

The Shamrocks in the third got a run back on a double-steal attempt that resulted in an out but saw Davis Crane take home in. They regained the lead, 5-4, in the top of the fourth thanks an RBI single by Daylen Lile and a two-run double by Crane. It was another short-lived advantage, as Davis doubled to put another run across for McCracken in the bottom.

Trinity went down in order to open the fifth, the first 1-2-3 frame by either squad. McCracken County loaded the bases in the bottom but couldn’t capitalize. The Mustangs in the sixth again retired the Shamrocks in succession but were unable to move a third-base runner home with no outs.

The championship game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday but, as has been the case throughout the entire tournament, rain in the forecast prompted a postponement.

Miller would have been fine to start it right after the Mustangs celebrated their semifinal win.

“Hell no,” Miller said, with a grin, when asked if he was rooting for rain to afford his team more rest. “I’m ready to play.”