Tates Creek’s baseball team has suffered its share of heartbreak in the playoffs at the expense of Lafayette over the last few years, but the Commodores finally tasted a sweet victory Tuesday night. No. 9 Tates Creek outlasted No. 13 Lafayette 9-6 in nine innings in a wild 43rd District semifinal game at Lexington Christian Academy.
It was a welcomed change for the Commodores, who had been eliminated by Lafayette in down-to-the-wire district games three times since 2004.
“It took forever, but it was a great game, the best, most competitive I’ve ever played in. It was a blast,” said Tates Creek junior shortstop A.B Bryant, who scored four runs in the 31/2-hour marathon.
The victory earned Tates Creek a spot in Thursday’s district finals against No. 6 LCA. Both teams will advance to the 11th Region Tournament, a reward Tates Creek hasn’t enjoyed since 2002.
In Tuesday’s first semifinal game, LCA avenged two losses to No. 24 Paul Laurence Dunbar earlier this spring by mercy-ruling the Bulldogs 11-1.
“It’s always fun if you can trade regular-season losses for post-season wins,” LCA Coach Keith Galloway said.
Tates Creek 9, Lafayette 6: Commodores Coach Dom Fucci likened the game to a “roller coaster. It was up and down for both ball clubs.
“We just kept battling back on them, and were fortunate to pull it out.”
Tates Creek pushed across a run in the top of the eighth to take a 5-4 lead on Travis Murray’s run-scoring single, but Lafayette tied it in the bottom of the inning.
The Generals were on the brink of winning when they loaded the bases with one out, but Ryan Fucci came on in relief and got out of the jam.
Fucci led off the ninth with a bunt single, and that lit the fuse on a four-run rally. Reid Van Bussum, Dorian Hairston and Zyler Cosby drove in runs.
Lafayette did not go down quietly in the bottom of the ninth. Tanner Lockard had a lead-off double and scored, and the Generals again loaded the bases with one out.
Dom Fucci called on freshman Nick Richmond, who got a fly-out and a pop-up to end the game.
Phillip Donovan started for the Commodores and worked into the sixth before giving way to Devin Jackson.
Donovan wound up returning to the mound in relief in the ninth as Dom Fucci made four pitching changes in the last inning.
Lafayette Coach Chris Langston used all three of his aces — Logan Shaftner, Conner Asay and Brent Cobb, and reliever Chad Warner.
The Generals left 13 runners on base.
Tates Creek had 14 hits. Cosby had four singles, and Trevor Gott had three.
LCA 11, Dunbar 1: The sky fell in on Dunbar in the first inning as LCA sent 13 batters to the plate and seven scored.That was more than enough support for Nate Coon, who retired the first 13 batters he faced. The senior right-hander wound up tossing a one-hitter and striking out seven. Coon’s breaking ball was his most effective pitch.“I went to the bullpen (before the game) and got my off-speed stuff ready,” he said.
Did Coon realize he had a perfect game going? “I did, but it was in the back of my mind,” he said. “I just wanted to give my team the best chance to win.”
Dunbar starter Tyler DeAgano didn’t survive the first. He surrendered five hits, including a two-run triple by Will Kindred and RBI singles by Michael Lyon, Adam Shewmaker and Lucas Witt.
Graham Winchester came on in relief and did a good job quieting LCA’s bats for a while, but the damage was already done.LCA closed it out in the fifth, thanks in part to Clay Mossbarger’s two-run single. Galloway didn’t tell Coon he was starting until 90 minutes before the first pitch.
“He capitalized on the opportunity,” Galloway said. “He took it and ran with it. He’s a quality young man who’s got good composure.”
Tates Creek 010 120 014—9 14 1
Lafayette 001 300 011—6 6 3
Phillip Donovan, Devin Jackson (6), Ryan Fucci (8), Donovan (9), Fucci (9), Nick Richmond (9) and Austin Broome. Logan Shaftner, Conner Asay (6), Brent Cobb (9), Chad Warner (9) and Tyler Messner. 2B—Tanner Lockard (L). HR—Messner (TC).
Records—Tates Creek 25-10; Lafayette 25-9.
Paul Dunbar 000 01— 1 1 1
Lexington Christian 700 13—11 10 0
Tyler DeAgano, Graham Winchester (1), Chris Beymer (5) and Trent Martin. Nate Coon and Steven Hoagland. W—Coon. L—DeAgano. 3B—Will Kindred (LCA).
Records—Dunbar 22-14, LCA 22-10