With a 12-22 season record, the Southwestern Warriors came in as a heavy underdog against West Jessamine in last night’s opening round of the 12th Regional Baseball Tournament.

The Colts, 19-11 on the year and champions of the 46th District, came in with aspirations of a regional crown in 2007, and Jody Hamilton’s club played like it.

West Jessamine jumped on top of Eric Rice and Southwestern in the home half of the first inning by sending 10 hitters to the plate, scoring six runs on the strength of three hits, two walks, a hit batsman, and one Southwestern error.

The Colts rode that six-run first inning to a very impressive, 11-1 win over the Warriors in five innings, ending Southwestern’s season with a 12-23 record.

“As coaches we talked about it, that was the worst possible thing to happen to us,” lamented Warrior head coach Rodney McAninch immediately after the contest.

“We didn’t get any breaks at all in that first inning and we didn’t get any balls hit right us,” continued the Warrior skipper. “They (West Jessamine) put the ball in play, and they had a big triple to key that rally. After that, I thought it settled down into a ballgame, and if we would have had a better start we might have had a chance. But, they are a good ball team. West Jessamine is well-rounded, and it looks to me that they are a very deep. They’ve got an athlete at every spot, and they know how to play the game.”

Brandon McNeely got West off and running in that decisive first inning with an RBI triple off of Rice for a 1-0 lead, while shortstop Chase Greene followed McNeely with an RBI groundout scoring the second run of the inning.

A Southwestern error made it 3-0 in favor of West Jessamine, and the Colts were well on their way to a big-time victory.

First baseman Daniel Polston singled later in the first driving in two more runs for a 5-0 West lead, and he would later come home on a wild pitch from Rice, making it 6-0 in favor of West Jessamine through one inning of play.

Southwestern was in a big-time hole and in some big-time trouble.

West Jessamine pitcher Nick Knight gave the Warriors a heavy dosage of Nick at night, as the right hander fanned eight Warrior hitters in his five innings of work, while holding the Warriors to four hits.

“We just stood out there and said our good-byes, and it’s tough to see a fine group of young men go that are a great group of seniors,” stated McAninch. “I told each and every one of them that I have no doubt they will be successful in life.”

“As for our program, we’ve got to bounce back because it’s been a tough year,” added McAninch. “We’ve been young, and we’ve got to get some of our younger kids out this summer and get to working them, and get tougher.”

As if the Colts needed any insurance whatsoever, West got just that – some insurance - in the home half of the second.

After McNeely led things off with a walk and Green singled, left fielder Bo Hacker drove both of them home with a two-run single, giving the Colts an insurmountable, 8-0 lead.

Southwestern broke through against Knight in the top half of the third, when T.T. Wooldridge laid down a beautiful bunt down the third base line.

West Jessamine third baseman Cody Stotts threw the ball away at first for an error attempting to nail Wooldridge on a bang-bang play, and the Warriors leadoff hitter went to second on the play.

Rice then came up and helped his own cause with a basehit to right center driving in Wooldridge, cutting the deficit to 8-1.

However, that would be all the offense on the night for Southwestern against West Jessamine’s Nick Knight, as the Colts led this one comfortably from wire to wire.

Chase Greene doubled off Rice leading off the home half of the fourth inning, and he came home to give West Jessamine a 9-1 lead on a wild pitch from Rice.

Later in the frame, the Colts number nine hitter, Bud Morton walked with the bases loaded, giving West a 10-1 advantage.

West Jessamine finished things off with its final run in the bottom of the fifth off of Aaron Hampton, who came on in relief of Rice in the bottom of the fourth inning.

McNeely was once again the catalyst for the Colts, by greeting Hampton with a leadoff single.

He advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and would later come home with the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly from Hacker, which ended the contest at 11-1 in five innings.

Rice, making the final start of his Southwestern career, wasn’t sharp and struggled with his control for much of the evening.

The Warrior senior took the loss, walking seven West Jessamine hitters in his 3 2/3 innings of work, while allowing the Colts seven hits with one strikeout.

“Eric wasn’t as comfortable as he usually is on the mound, and I think that first inning got him out of his comfort zone,” pointed out McAninch. “Eric, when he’s gotten out to a good start this year, has had several games where he has been extremely tough.”

“We hoped that would be the case tonight, but he walked the leadoff man to start the game, and that’s a killer, because it’s almost a statistical guarantee that a run is going to score. He was able to bounce back and got a couple of ground balls, and we made some plays behind him, but I just felt like we dug ourselves a hole, and by the time we settled down and started playing the game, it was just too late.”

With the win over Southwestern, West Jessamine advanced to tonight’s semi final round of the tournament, where the Colts will meet up against Rockcastle County approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of today’s first semi final contest between Somerset and Mercer County, which will get underway at 5:30 p.m.

The Rockets won in their first round game yesterday, with a 9-7 win over Boyle County.

SW- 0 0 1 0 0 – 1 4 2

WJ- 6 2 0 2 1 - 11 9 2

2B-(WJ) Greene. 3B-(WJ) McNeely. RBI’s-(WJ) Hacker 3, Polston 2, McNeely 1, Greene 1. (SW) Rice 1.WP-Knight. LP-Rice

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