Spectacular defense, timely hitting and solid pitching by committee carried Tates Creek to a 4-2 victory over No. 1 Lexington Catholic in the 43rd District baseball finals Thursday night.
Believe it or not, it's the tradition-rich Commodores' first district crown in 25 years. And when they last won the district in 1986, they went on to capture the state title.
Coach Dom Fucci took it all in stride, saying he had no idea Tates Creek's district drought had been so long, and he was just happy that his team had some momentum heading into next week's 11th Region tournament.
But his players didn't hide their excitement, sharing high-fives, hugs and sending a few whoops and hollers echoing into the cool, wet night.
The No. 8 Commodores played with lots of energy as they avenged a pair of lopsided (11-0 and 7-1) regular-season losses to Lexington Catholic, and ended the Knights' 15-game winning streak.
"We pitched well, hit well and played great defense," Fucci said. "Sound ball club."
Fucci's son Ryan, a senior who has signed to play baseball at Western Kentucky University, was one of the stars.
He had a two-run homer in the third inning that gave Tates Creek a 4-1 lead.
"I was looking to go to right field just trying to get on base, but luckily I got a good piece of it and it went out of the yard," he said of his 11th homer this season.
But it was on defense that Fucci made the play of the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Lexington Catholic's fans were making lots of noise, trying to spark a comeback. Left-handed hitting Troy Miller led off the inning by ripping a shot to right-center. It looked like a double to the gap, but Fucci made a diving catch at the base of the fence.
"I was shading Troy a little bit already," he said. "A lucky catch. My first (layout) all year."
Tates Creek also got terrific defensive plays from Devin Hairston at short and Kyle Polley in left. (Polley replaced Dorian Hairston in the third when Hairston took a foul ball to the face off his own bat.)
"They not only made the routine plays, they made phenomenal plays, too," Lexington Catholic Coach Taylor Brooks said. "Fucci's catch was a rally-killer. He's an animal in the outfield, a great player who took away a hit, and that's a game-changer."
Ryan Fucci said the Commodores have been outstanding on defense all year, "but I didn't know we could do it tonight on this wet turf and the ball being a little slick."
Offensively, Tates Creek got a lift from Austin Broome, who had a pair of doubles and an RBI. Andrew Bryant and Devin Jackson each had a hit and a run.
Four pitchers combined to limit the Knights to just four singles. Jackson started, followed by Nick Richmond, Cody Bronaugh and Logan Howard. Howard worked the last three innings and had three strikeouts.
"It means the world to us to win the district," he said. "We did it all for Coach."
Lexington Catholic, meanwhile, heads to the region as a district runner-up.
"We don't mind losing as long as we make it count," Brooks said. "We want to learn something from this loss."
Tates Creek 112 000 0—4 7 0
Lexington Catholic 100 100 0—2 5 3
Devin Jackson, Nick Richmond (3), Cody Bronaugh (4), Logan Howard (5) and Austin Broome. Tyler Arthur, Colton Cleary (6) and Tyler Jackson. 2B—Broome, 2 (TC), Ryan Fucci (TC). HR—Fucci (TC).
Records—Tates Creek 26-9; LexCath 27-6
All-tournament—Ryan Fucci, Andrew Bryant, Austin Broome, Travis Murray of Tates Creek; Troy Miller, Taylor Martin, Evan Fraliex of Lexington Catholic; Taylor Blair, Ethan McKiddy of Lexington Christian; Tyler Zander, Tyler DeAgano of Paul Laurence Dunbar; Johnny Youngblood, Tyler Messner of Lafayette.