The sound of silence gave way to cheers of celebration for Lexington Catholic as the top-ranked Knights beat No. 8 Tates Creek 3-1 in the 11th Region baseball finals at Bryan Station Wednesday night.
Tates Creek came into the title game with a lineup that was notorious for making lots of noise with its bats.
But Lexington Catholic's under-the-radar pitching tandem of Zach Haynes and Colton Cleary quieted the Commodores.
Haynes, a junior right-hander, and Cleary, a junior lefty, combined to limit Tates Creek to five hits while striking out eight.
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"They were amazing," Knights' catcher Tyler Jackson said. "I've never been prouder of any pitchers.
"The way both teams were hitting coming in, I thought there'd be more runs. But it turned out to be a pitchers' duel, and our pitchers had more confidence than I've ever seen from them."
The victory gave Lexington Catholic (30-6) its sixth region title since 1999.
The three-time state champions will play the 6th Region winner (Pleasure Ridge Park or DeSales) in the first round of the Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA State Tournament June 14 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
"It's an honor to be part of a program like this," said Lexington Catholic first-year head coach Taylor Brooks. "The kids had high expectations coming in, and they played loose and focused."
Tates Creek got a strong complete-game pitching performance from senior lefty Devin Jackson, but a shaky first inning cost him.
He walked the first two batters of the night — Will Hurt and Tyler Jackson.
Hurt eventually scored on a double steal, and Jackson came home on a Tates Creek throwing error.
Nick Chafin's two-out single scored Tyler Wells, who had reached on the error.
"It was great to get those three runs, but I didn't think it'd be enough," Brooks said. "I thought we were in for an 8-6 or 9-7 game."
He was wrong.
Tates Creek got a run in its first at-bat when Andrew Bryant doubled and Landon Skaggs singled him home, but the Commodores' bats didn't do any damage after that.
They threatened in the fourth with runners at second and third with two outs, but Haynes got a strikeout to end the inning.
"I just tried to bear down, and my curveball got the big out," he said.
Cleary's only dicey situation came in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Bryant reached on an error. That brought Ryan Fucci (and his 11 home runs) to the plate.
"I tried to get ahead in the count, and keep the ball low so he couldn't hit it," Cleary said.
He did just that, and struck out Fucci with a changeup.
"Joy," he said.
Lexington Catholic used its top two pitchers, seniors Taylor Martin and Tyler Arthur, in complete-game victories in the first two rounds of the region. But Brooks couldn't have asked for more out of Haynes and Cleary.
"They absolutely fought all night, and made big pitches when we needed them most," he said. "And our defense was great behind them."
It was a disappointing end for Tates Creek, which beat the No. 1 Knights in the district finals last week but came up short of its first region title in 21 years.
"We just had trouble in the first inning," Coach Dom Fucci said. "We threw the ball away a little bit.
"But give Lexington Catholic credit. They got three runs and we got one. We battled but just didn't get a big hit at the right time."
Lexington Catholic 300 000 0—3 5 1
Tates Creek 100 000 0—1 5 2
Zach Haynes, Colton Cleary (5) and Tyler Jackson. Devin Jackson and Landon Skaggs. 2B--Andrew Bryant (TC).
Records—LexCath 30-6; Tates Creek 28-10
All-tournament: Evan Fraliex (MVP), Tyler Jackson, Taylor Martin, Tyler Arthur of Lexington Catholic; Austin Broome, Andrew Bryant, Aaron Mitchell of Tates Creek; Dusty Ridner, Caleb Epperson of Madison Central; Logan Coffey, Ryan Barrass of Western Hills; Chris Kidd of Berea; Corey Bays of Henry Clay; Brady Boling of Bryan Station; Clint Hollen of Woodford County.