The Somerset Briar Jumper baseball team is the bridesmaid of the 12th Region no more.
Phil Grundy and crew can now simply be described in two words – “regional champions.”
One year after falling to Danville in the 2006 12th Regional Baseball Tournament championship game 6-0, Somerset brought home the hardware for the first time since the 1990 season on Wednesday night, by knocking off the West Jessamine Colts in last night’s title game of the 2007 regional finale, in an offensive slugfest by a final score of 11-8.
“It’s been a long time coming obviously, but this is a special group of kids,” stated a very jubilant Grundy after the contest.
“We were dead in the water a little bit early, and Corey (Price) battled and battled, and things didn’t go our way early, but that’s the sign of a champion,” continued the Briar Jumper skipper. “Our guys fought and fought and fought, and they had the big inning and they believed.”
As far as a start to a ballgame goes, it was hardly the script the Somerset head coach would have have written to get this titanic struggle started.
In fact, the start of last night’s 12th Regional Baseball Tournament title game between the Briar Jumpers and West Jessamine was a complete disaster for Grundy and the Briar Jumpers.
In fact, things looked about as bleak for Somerset as it did this time a year ago, when the Briar Jumpers fell in that championship game in the 2006 12th Regional Baseball tourney to the Admirals.
Through two innings of play, West had Grundy and crew left for dead, leading the Jumpers by a count of 6-0.
This time however, Somerset, after a 17-year drought, wasn’t about to be denied on this night.
West Jessamine jumped on Somerset starter Corey Price from the outset, plating three runs in the bottom half of the first inning.
It all started with Price walking leadoff hitter Cody Stotts, and that opened up the flood gates for the Colts, as the 46th District champions raced out to a very quick 3-0 lead.
Stotts came home with the first run of the night for the Colts on an RBI groundout off the bat of designated hitter Scott Gross, giving West Jessamine a 1-0 lead.
Later in the inning, left fielder Bo Hocker singled in the second run of the first inning, and after a walk to Tre’ Pollard, Daniel Polston singled in another run, giving the Colts a 3-0 lead after one inning of play.
Somerset had a golden opportunity to get back in this one in the top half of the second, but a play at the plate snake bit the Briar Jumpers.
After Price became the first Somerset base runner on the night with one out in the second, reaching base on an error by Greene, designated hitter Kenny Hughes followed him with a bloop single to the opposite field in left, giving the Jumpers runners at first and second with only one out.
After Chase Hall was retired on a popup, left fielder Will Thompson singled sharply to right, but Aaron Dockery, courtesy running for Price, was nailed at the plate for the final out of the inning on a great throw from Pollard.
“I’m overly-aggressive and everybody that comes out and watches us play know that we steal bases and we like to run,” Grundy pointed out.
“It took a perfect throw on that play, and Aaron was out by quite a bit,” added the Jumper skipper. “It was a good throw, but I want people to understand that when they come out to see Somerset baseball, we’re going to be aggressive and we’re going to be hard-nosed.”
With all kinds of momentum on its side, leading by that 3-0 margin, that play at the plate gave West Jessamine even more confidence.
The Colts came back with another three-spot in the home half of the second inning against Price and the Briar Jumpers, giving West a commanding, 6-0 lead over Somerset after only two innings of play.
Greene drove in one of those runs with an RBI groundout, and later in the inning, Hocker picked up his third RBI in two innings of play, with a huge, two-out, two-run single, and just like that, Somerset was in a big-time 6-0 hole.
Down 6-0 however, the Jumpers were far from down and out.
In fact, it was Somerset that was getting ready to blow this one wide open.
Grundy’s club came roaring back in the top of the third, coming back from the dead and knocking out West Jessamine starter, Tyler West in the process, who only lasted 2 1/3 innings, despite being given a six-run cushion to work with.
Somerset came out and busted West Jessamine squarely in the mouth in that decisive third inning, by sending 13 hitters to the plate, scoring 10 runs in the frame on seven basehits, while taking advantage of four Colt errors.
Scott Moody had a grand slam homerun off of Tyler West to get the Jumpers off and running, cutting the deficit to 6-4 with nobody out.
After West was knocked out of the game, the Colts brought in Tyler Dunn, and all he did was throw gasoline on the fire, being unable to retire any of the five Somerset hitters that he faced.
Chase Hall greeted Dunn with a two-run double, Thompson doubled in another run, while John Cole and Chris Fitzpatrick each had RBI singles.
Thanks to that offensive onslaught, Somerset, after trailing 6-0 through two innings of play, found itself up by a four-spot, 10-6, headed into the bottom half of the third inning.
One year after finishing as a regional runner-up to Danville, this time, Somerset wasn’t to be denied.
“We’re not finished, because I want to make it to Applebee’s,” stated Grundy, in referring to the state baseball tournament.
“It started off with a hit and an error, and we knew West was going to be short on pitching tonight, and that seemed to open up the flood gates,” continued Grundy. “I’ll tell you who really got us going, and he didn’t make the all-tournament team but he deserved it, and that was Will Thompson. You can’t put a price tag on what he did. Will came up with a big double and a big single, Kenny Hughes got a big hit, and tonight, this was a one through nine effort. If we ever get going at the plate one through nine, we can be dangerous on the baseball field, and there in the third inning, we were able to do just that.”
That 10-run explosion by the Jumpers in the third inning seem to settle Price down.
After giving up a leadoff single in the bottom of the third frame to Daniel Polston, the Jumper pitcher settled in and retired the next nine hitters he faced, keeping Somerset comfortably out in front in this one by that four run margin.
“West Jessamine is a great ballclub and they put the ball in play and they battled all night long, and we knew it was going to be a battle,” pointed out Grundy.
“I tell the guys all the time that if it’s going to be a slugfest, then we want to slug, and if it’s going to be a one run game, then let’s go out and pitch and play defense,” stated Grundy. “Corey went out there and retiring them six up and six down in the fourth and fifth innings was huge to keep the momentum on our side, after we had scored the 10 runs in the third inning.”
The Jumpers weren’t satisfied with that four-run cushion, as Somerset picked up another run in the top of the fifth inning.
Fitzpatrick got that rally started by getting hit by a pitch from West Jessamine reliever Clay Collins with two out, and he promptly stole second base.
Moody followed Fitzpatrick by lacing a shot to left field for a run-scoring single, giving Somerset an 11-6 advantage while giving the Somerset shortstop his fifth RBI of the contest.
The Colts tried to make things interesting in the bottom of the sixth inning, when West broke through against Price for two more runs, cutting the Somerset lead to 11-8.
Bud Morton opening things up with a double, and he came home on a Briar Jumper error.
Brandon McNeely doubled in Stotts, who singled in front of the West Jessamine center fielder, as the Colts refused to go away.
Price then induced Greene to pop out on a bunt attempt, Gross popped out to Adam Wallen at first base, and Price got out of the jam by fanning Pollard on a 3-2 pitch.
After Somerset threatened but failed to score in the top of the seventh, Price came out in the bottom of the seventh inning and closed things out, by retiring West Jessamine in order, and ending the contest by striking out Morton.
For the game, Price went the distance, going seven innings on the mound for the Jumpers, allowing the Colts 12 hits, while fanning four and walking only two.
With the win, the Briar Jumpers, 23-9 on the season, advance to next weeks sectional round of the playoffs, which will be held at St. Henry High School in Erlanger.
The Jumpers will play Ryle High School in a best two-out-of-three sectional series on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week.
Members of the 2007 12th Regional Baseball All Tournament Team were: Rich Witten from Danville, Robert Corder from Wayne County, Boyle County’s Taylor Payne, Southwestern’s Eric Rice, Izak McQueary and Tanner Perkins from Rockcastle County, Matthew Robertson and Justin Morgan from Mercer County, Nick Knight, Andy Haston, Bo Hocker, and Daniel Polston from West Jessamine, while rounding out the squad were Somerset’s Corey Price, Chase Hall, Adam Wallen, Scott Moody, and Chris Fitzpatrick.
Editor’s Note: A very special thank you to McCreary Central head baseball coach Mark Taylor and all the fine folks at McCreary Central High School, who did an absolutely great job of hosting this year’s tournament.
SHS- 0 0 10 0 1 0 0 – 11 14 2
WJ- 3 3 0 0 0 2 0 - 8 12 7
DOUBLES-(SHS) Hughes 1, Hall 1, Thompson 1, Price 1. (WJ) Morton 1, McNeely 1
RBI’s-(SHS) Moody 5, Hall 2, Thompson 1, Cole 1, Fitzpatrick 1 (WJ) Hocker 3, Gross 1, Polston 1, Greene 1, McNeely 1
The Somerset Briar Jumper baseball team is the bridesmaid of the 12th Region no more.