West Jessamine's Jody Hamilton was a befuddled baseball coach after his Colts rallied to beat Shelby County 8-6 in the first round of the Forcht Bank/KHSAA State Tournament at Applebee's Park on Monday night.
"Can a team play as bad as we did and still win?" Hamilton asked after watching his players make seven errors.
No. 4 West Jessamine, the highest rated team in the tournament, played like No. 400 for the first few innings.
The Colts were a comedy of errors, making three in the first, two in the second and one in the third.
Shelby County parlayed the miscues with big hits from Eric Standafer, John Hunter, Josh Dennison and Nate Clifton to build a 6-1 lead.
"It was bad," Hamilton said of his team's defense. "I've been coming to state tournament games a long time, and I don't ever remember anybody playing that bad, at least for three innings.
"I don't know if we did anything right, except put Alex (Lester) on the mound."
That turned out to be a game-winning move.
After Noah Smallwood got off to a shaky start, Lester came on in relief with two outs in the second. The senior right-hander went the rest of the way, giving up just three hits and striking out 11.
He saved a special "K" for the end.
Shelby County had the tying runs at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Brian Straub, who had doubled in his previous at-bat, came to the plate.
Hamilton visited the mound and told Lester he could face one more batter.
"He said he'd get him out," Hamilton said.
Lester did, striking out Straub to end the game.
"I was nervous," Lester said, "but I knew I had my good stuff, so I was confident."
As for his strong relief performance, Lester said "adrenaline just took over my body. I wasn't ready to go home yet."
West Jessamine chipped away at the five-run deficit with two runs in the third and one in the fourth to make it 6-4.
The Colts tied it in the fifth on an odd play. After Tre Pollard's sacrifice fly scored Tyler West and advanced Blake Davis to third, Shelby County Coach Bart Roettger thought Davis left second early on the tag-up and decided to appeal.
But Rockets pitcher Corey Williams thought Roettger wanted him to appeal to third, and he threw wildly to the base, allowing Davis to score the tying run.
West Jessamine took the lead in the top of the sixth. Bud Morton walked, stole second and third, and came home on a balk.
"Speed kills," Hamilton said of Morton's fleet feet.
The Colts added insurance when Gus Sherrow doubled, and then scored on West's single to make it 8-6.
"We just kept fighting," Hamilton said.
Roettger praised his team's competitive fire, and also Lester's relief pitching.
"Credit that guy, he stopped us," he said.
West Jessamine's awful showing in the early innings could be interpreted as a good sign, at least according to West, who had three hits and two RBI for the Colts.
"If you make seven errors and win, you must be tough to beat because if you play a good game, there's not much (the other team) can do," he said.
West Jessamine 012 122 0—8 10 7
Shelby County 330 000 0—6 8 4
Noah Smallwood, Alex Lester (2) and Louie Helmburg. Taylor Boone, Corey Williams (4), Eric Standafer (6) and John Hunter. W—Lester. L—Williams. 2B—Eric Standafer (SC), Brian Straub (SC), Gus Sherrow (WJ). 3B—Bud Morton (WJ).
Records—W. Jessamine 34-7; Shelby Co. 26-11