High School Baseball

43rd District baseball: Walk-off single lifts Lafayette over Dunbar

Lafayette's Austin Messner stole second base past Dunbar's Connor McHugh during the second inning. Dunbar's defense held behind pitcher Aaron Ochsenbein, a 6-3 junior righthander, who worked into the eighth inning. He was lifted after he walked the lead-off batter.
Lafayette's Austin Messner stole second base past Dunbar's Connor McHugh during the second inning. Dunbar's defense held behind pitcher Aaron Ochsenbein, a 6-3 junior righthander, who worked into the eighth inning. He was lifted after he walked the lead-off batter. Herald-Leader

Eight years in the making, and eight innings to finally get it done.

That was the bottom line on Lafayette's dramatic 1-0 victory over Paul Laurence Dunbar in the 43rd District baseball semifinals at Tates Creek on Tuesday night.

Kylan Nelson's walk-off single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth drove in pinch runner Morgan Lewis with the winning run.

The victory earned Lafayette a spot in the district finals, but more important, it earned the Generals a spot in next week's 11th Region tournament.

"The first time we've been there since 2005," Coach Chris Langston said. "So this was eight years in the making. We talked about our goals today, and this was one of them. We can mark it off our list now."

Josh Dunn was the pitching hero for the Generals. The 6-foot-3 senior righthander was remarkably efficient in going the distance. He needed only 79 pitches, scattering five hits, striking out three and walking none.

He also went the distance in a 12-0 regular-season win over Dunbar, "but this one feels a lot better," he said.

"I was comfortable on the mound, and I knew if I put it on the corners and in the right spots my defense would make the plays."

Langston said Dunn's performance "is what we had to have. He's been talking about how he wanted to show people what he had, and he did tonight. Perfect timing."

Dunbar ace Aaron Ochsenbein was almost as good as Dunn. The 6-3 junior righthander worked into the eighth, but was lifted after he walked the lead-off batter.

Ochsenbein gave up four hits and five walks and struck out six. He escaped bases-loaded jams in the sixth and seventh.

"He pitched great," Coach Larry Poynter said. "As the game went on and on without us scoring, it made it tougher and tougher."

Lafayette's Matt Trimble walked to lead off the eighth, and Lewis came on to run for him. Tyler Brummer took over for Ochsenbein, whose pitch count reached 127. Brummer got Daniel to hit an infield grounder, but the Bulldogs' defense couldn't make the play. Lewis sped to third on the error and Daniel rolled into second.

That brought Nelson to the plate. The junior centerfielder had a chance to drive in a run in the sixth with two outs and the bases loaded, but he hit into a fielder's choice. He was glad to get a second chance.

"I was praying the whole time I was up there, 'Just let me hit it and get the run in,'" he said. "And it produced."

Langston was happy for Nelson. "It's been a struggle at times for him this season. It was great that he finally got the chance to do something like this for his teammates."

Poynter was proud of his team's performance, which included getting out of a few dicey situations.

"It just shows the character these guys have, a no-quit attitude," he said.

A late-afternoon storm delayed the start of the game by more than two hours. That forced the second semifinal between Lexington Catholic and Tates Creek to be reset for 6 p.m. Wednesday. The championship game has been pushed back to Thursday at 7 p.m.

Paul Dunbar 000 000 00 -- 0 5 3

Lafayette 000 000 01 -- 1 5 0

Aaron Ochsenbein, Tyler Brummer (8) and Wes Walker. Josh Dunn and Matt Trimble. 2B--Jack Cress (PD).

Records--Lafayette 25-10; Dunbar 27-10

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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