Nobody had it any tougher than Landon Skaggs of Tates Creek in the opening round of the 11th Region baseball tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Monday afternoon.
Skaggs, a junior catcher, not only had to endure the suffocating heat, he was nicked a few times by foul balls, and he had to rein in pitchers with serious control problems.
But nobody had a more enjoyable time than Skaggs, either. His sharp single to left drove in Dorian Hairston with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as No. 8 Tates Creek edged No. 12 Bryan Station 6-5.
Skaggs had a big day at the plate with three hits and three RBI.
"These kind of big games, you get the adrenalin flowing, you get locked in and play up to your potential," Skaggs said. "Both teams did today. It was just an all-out battle."
The Commodores advance to Tuesday's semifinals to face Western Hills, which beat Berea 6-1. Western Hills beat Tates Creek 7-6 in the first round of the region last year.
Tates Creek saw leads of 2-0 and 5-2 evaporate on the hot afternoon. New safety rules require 10-minute water breaks when the heat index hits 95, and there were two such breaks Monday.
The Commodores appeared to take control when it scored three times in the bottom of the fifth to go up 5-2.
Andrew Bryant got things going with a two-out double. After Ryan Fucci was intentionally walked, Bryan Station ace Ryne Combs got Dorian Hairston on a groundout to second.
Bryant, however, never broke stride as he rounded third and slid safely home with the go-ahead run.
With Landon Skaggs at the plate, Fucci surprised Combs by breaking for third. Combs was called for a balk and Fucci went to third.
Skaggs hammered the next pitch to center for an RBI double, and Travis Murray singled on the next pitch to drive in courtesy runner Kyle Polley.
"Aggressive base running is kind of our M.O.," Coach Dom Fucci said. "We got caught a few times, but we're going to keep the full-court press on."
Tates Creek's pitchers had trouble finding the plate. Three of them combined to walk nine batters and hit two.
"That was my fault," Dom Fucci said. "I overextended them in this heat."
Bryan Station took advantage when it got three runs in the top of the sixth without a hit. Four walks and a hit batter fueled the rally.
The Defenders looked as though they had taken the lead in the sixth when, with two outs, the bases loaded and the score tied, Chris Laporte popped up to the right side of the infield. Tates Creek couldn't get a bead on the ball, and it fell on the baseline chalk and was grabbed by a Commodore on the first bounce.
Two Bryan Station runners sprinted home, but umpires ruled it a foul ball. Laporte popped out to end the inning.
"You gotta get some breaks to win it all," Defenders Coach Eddie Brooks said. "They caught a few and we didn't, and we got beat by a great team."
Nick Richmond got the pitching win for Tates Creek with two innings of relief.
Bryant had three of the Commodores' 12 hits, and Travis Murray had two RBI.
Bryan Station was led by Ryan Jourdan's three hits, two runs and an RBI. Combs had two RBI.
"I'm proud of my guys," Brooks said. "They kept the same mentality all year — never quit, never surrender, never die. They gave it all like champions."
Bryan Station 010 103 0—5 6 0
Tates Creek 200 030 1—6 12 0
Ryne Combs and Brady Boling. Aaron Mitchell, Devin Jackson (6), Nick Richmond (6) and Landon Skaggs. 2B—Andrew Bryant, 2 (TC), Skaggs (TC).
Records—Bryan Station 19-11; Tates Creek 27-9