After last year’s 13-3 loss to Mercer County in the 12th Region Baseball Championship game, Southwestern made it a priority to make a trip back to the title game in 2014.
Those returning players from last year’s runner-up squad took it another step further after last year’s heartbreaking loss, claiming the school’s second-ever 12th Region title with a 5-3 win over Somerset on Thursday evening at West Jessamine.
Thanks a three-run rally in the fifth inning and a pair of double plays on the defensive side, it was Alex Eaton and the Warriors coming away with a two-run victory over the crosstown rival Briar Jumpers.
After walking off the field as regional runner-ups a season ago at Rockcastle County, Southwestern made it their mission to not only get back to the title game, but win it this time.
“It’s hard to even get in the championship game two years in a row, and it’s really difficult to win it,” explained Eaton. “After we lost to Mercer County last year, I had a couple of guys tell me, ‘Coach, we let you down, and we’re going to get us back.’ It’s not about me, it’s about them, but they felt like they let me down – that’s just the type of guys that they are.”
Eaton, the fourth-year Warrior skipper, is extremely thankful to be a part of this regional championship team. It is Southwestern’s first regional title since the 2004 season.
“This is one of the best feelings that I’ve ever had in my life,” Eaton continued. “I just want to thank the guys for giving me this wonderful opportunity. Ultimately, it’s about them – I’m just humbled to be here. It’s an unbelievable feeling to go from the feeling we had last year after losing to the one we have at this very moment.”
Southwestern, the visiting team on the scoreboard, struck first in this one, plating a lone run in the top of the first inning. After leading the game off with a single, Hunter Cromer scored the Warriors’ first run of the evening on a sacrifice fly from Trevor Howard.
Cromer and the Warriors would strike again in the third frame, as the Warrior freshman would scoot home on another sacrifice fly, this time from Lucas Turpin. Thanks to Cromer’s two scores, Southwestern grabbed a 2-0 advantage.
Somerset responded with a big inning of their own in the bottom of the third, plating a trio of runs to jump out to a 3-2 lead over the Warriors. The Jumpers got their inaugural run of the night after Chandler Purcell scored on a single from Jacob Pelston. Somerset would take the lead over Southwestern after Addison Thompson and Pelston each scored on a two-run single from Trae Harmon.
The Warriors would put up a three-spot of their own in the fifth inning, allowing them to jump out to a 5-3 lead over Somerset. Jacob Burchett (reached on error) and Howard (walk) each scored on a two-out single from Zach Profitt. Turpin, who was hit by a pitch, tallied the Warriors’ fifth run of the contest on a single from Chris Lynch.
Somerset looked as if they were going to threaten to retake the lead over the Warriors in both the sixth and seventh innings, but a pair of double plays would keep the Jumpers off the board.
Unfortunately for the Jumpers, the 5-3 setback to Southwestern brought an end to their 2014 season. For a group of special seniors, the loss concluded their careers as a baseball player at Somerset.
Veteran Somerset head coach Phil Grundy will certainly miss the seniors who paved the way to a regional runner-up banner in 2014.
“I feel sorry for our seniors,” said Grundy. “It’s going to be hard to replace a group of seniors that have lived and breathed baseball – they’ve worked so hard for us. I just hate for them. It’s so disappointing to get so close and not get the big prize. We wish our seniors the best.”
At the plate, Somerset had seven different players get a hit on the night – Thompson, Pelston, Purcell, Harmon, Charlie Dishman, Bryson Jones, and Cody Carrender. Harmon led Somerset with two RBI’s.
For Southwestern, the duo of Cromer and Howard led the charge with two hits apiece. Profitt had a team-high two RBI’s, while Howard and Lynch each chimed in with a lone RBI.
Logan Combs, who went the distance for the Jumpers in this one, was saddled with the loss. Grundy was pleased with the way the Somerset sophomore competed on such a big stage.
“I really want to tip my hat to Logan Combs and the way he battled through it tonight,” praised the SHS coach. “He made some really quality pitches – he’s going to be a great one some day.”
Wyatt Burton came in to the game during the second inning and finished things off for the Warriors. The Warrior senior gave up two runs on four hits and had a strikeouts in the victory.
With the loss, Somerset’s final record for the 2014 will stand at 24-15. The Jumpers finished the season as champions of the 47th District and runner-up in the 12th Region.
Making up the 12th Region All-Tournament Team from the Warriors were Howard, Boils, Lynch, and Burton. Thompson, Dishman, and Pelston joined the all-tournament team from Somerset. Pulaski County’s Aaron Smith was also named an all-tournament selection.
Grundy wanted wish the Warriors the best of the luck at the state tournament next week.
“Southwestern is a great ball club – I’m proud of them,” Grundy said. “We’ve known these kids since they were six or seven years old, and they earned it – they had a great tournament. We wish them the best at the state tournament.”
The Warriors (27-12) will now turn their attention to the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament, which kicks off Monday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, the home of the Lexington Legends. Southwestern will square-off with Simon Kenton, champions out of the 8th Region, on Monday evening at 6 p.m. in Lexington.
Southwestern advanced to the championship by defeating West Jessamine, 5-2, in the semifinal match-up prior to the championship.
Needing just two outs to win the ballgame, junior Jacob Burchett struck out two West Jessamine batters to end the contest and earn his team a spot in the regional finals.
The game was continued Thursday evening after a lightning delay and eventual downpour on Tuesday night forced officials to move the game to a later date.
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SW – 1 0 1 0 3 0 0 – 5 10 1
SHS – 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 – 3 7 0
2B – Howard, Boils (SW); Dishman (SHS)
RBI – Profitt 2, Howard, Lynch (SW); Harmon 2, Pelston (SHS)
Runs scored – Cromer 2, Burchett, Howard, Turpin (SW – 5); Thompson, Pelston, Purcell (SHS – 3)
Hits – Cromer 2, Howard 2, Burchett, Turpin, Profitt, Lynch, Boils, Burton (SW – 10); Thompson, Pelston, Dishman, Harmon, Jones, Carrender, Purcell (SHS – 7)
Errors – SW 1, SHS 0
Runners left on base – SW 5, SHS 3
W – Burton (SW)
L – Combs (SHS)
Strikeouts – Lynch 2, Burton (SW)