By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Facing a four-run deficit and down to their last three outs, elimination looked inevitable for the Pulaski County High School baseball team on Monday night in the opening round of the 47th District Baseball Tournament at Charlie Taylor Field.
But a Pulaski last-inning rally capped off by a Henry Lorman bases-loaded clearing double off the left field wall and a Chris Henderlight walk-off RBI base hit propelled the Maroons to a 7-6 comeback win over Rockcastle County High School.
After a mini rally in the third inning the Pulaski bats went cold the next three innings, while Rockcastle kept punching away to increase their lead.
By the time the game reached the bottom of the seventh inning, Pulaski found themselves down by a score of 6-2.
The mood in the Pulaski dugout was getting somewhat somber, as the realization that their season may come to an end on the night.
But Pulaski head coach Danny Masten was comfortable with the guys coming up to bat and their comeback ability.
“To be honest, I had the guys up that I wanted up to bat in the final inning; 9-1-2, Blake Burton, Jacob Denney and Taylor Gover, then Aaron Smith, Eric Jones and Henry Lorman,” Masten explained. “These guys have put up some big hits and gave us some big comebacks all year.”
And the Maroons saved one of their best comebacks on Monday night, as they faced almost certain elimination.
Pulaski sophomore Blake Burton led the inning off by reaching base on a Rockcastle fielding error, and advanced to second by beating out the infield force play on a Jacob Denney infield hit.
After Taylor Gover was hit by pitch, the bases were loaded for the Maroons with no outs. And the Maroons dugout came alive.
Aaron Smith drew a walk to force in Burton from third base. Eric Jones struck out, leaving the heroics up to his senior teammate Henry Lorman.
Lorman drilled the ball off the left field wall to clear the bases and tie the game at 6-6.
“It was a 1-1 count and I knew the next pitch was going to be down the middle of the plate, so I just swung and it hit the sweet part of the bat,” Lorman explained. “It went all the way to the left field wall. I honestly thought it was going out (of the park). I was jogging at first, but the coaches were telling me to run harder.”
“Going into the seventh inning, I honestly thought we were beat,” Lorman admitted. “ I was sitting in the dugout praying and praying that we could come back, and I guess it worked.”
And just like that, the Maroons got new life.
Dustin Vaught flied out to left field, allowing Lorman to tag and advance to third base.
With two outs, Pulaski sophomore Chris Henderlight came to the plate. Henderlight was not a Pulaski starter and didn’t even come into the game until the fifth inning.
Henderlight delivered the final comeback blow after he drilled the ball over the Rockcastle centerfielder’s head, allowing Lorman to jog home for the game-winning run.
“I was nervous,” Henderlight stated. “It is hard coming into a game in the fifth inning, and having to face a really good pitcher. It was nerve-racking and I was feeling a lot of pressure.”
“At practice before we came here, Blake Burton told me I was going to have an at-bat that was going to be the bat of the game,” Henderlight stated.
At that point pandemonium broke out on Somerset’s Charlie Taylor Field, as the Pulaski bench rushed out to mob Henderlight and Lorman for their comeback heroics.
“I pulled (Chris Henderlight) off the bench in a big game against West Jessamine and he hit a double off the wall,” Masten said of his young star. “He has had some big hits for us this season, but this was the biggest.”
Rockcastle pitcher Boone Saylor had pitched a solid game up until the seventh inning, when he was yanked after loading the bases with on outs.
“(Rockcastle pitcher Boone Saylor) struggled a little with his control, we got the ball in play and they make a couple of errors, and all of a sudden we had a chance. It was a crazy game,” Masten exclaimed
Rockcastle took the early lead in the game after scoring two runs in the top of the third inning.
However, Pulaski responded with a pair of runs of their own in the bottom half of the third inning Eric Jones hit a hard grounder that went by the Rock third baseman, allowing Jacob Denney and Taylor Gover to score.
In the next three frames Pulaski went hitless as Salyer struck out five Maroon batters during that stretch. Meanwhile, Rockcastle scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to up their lead to 6-2.
Despite having 16 base runners for the game, Pulaski did not get their first hit until the final inning.
Rockcastle scored their first four runs off only two hits allowed by Maroons’ starting pitcher Aaron Smith. Lorman came in as a relief pitcher in the final three innings of the game.
Pulaski’s comeback win set up a cross-town District 47 championship game against Somerset, which was played last night at Charlie Taylor Field.
RC 0 0 2 2 2 0 0 – 6 3 3
PC 0 0 2 0 0 0 5 – 7 3 4
2B – Lorman, Henderlight.
RBI – Smith, Lorman 3, Henderlight.
WP - Lorman.