HARRODSBURG — The Pulaski County Maroons sat one game away from their first regional crown since 2002 on Thursday evening, as they went against the Garrard County Golden Lions for the 12th Region Championship. The Maroons lost both games against Garrard this season, but came into Thursday’s contest on a tear after defeating Boyle County 12-0 in the semifinals.

Although they didn’t win the district title, to the Maroons still went the spoils as after getting out to a quick 9-0 lead, Pulaski cruised to the 12th Region title by a score of 17-3 in just five innings of play, giving them their first state birth in over 20 years. Head coach Kent Mayfield was emotional following the conclusion of the game.

“It’s no secret we had our ups and downs this season, we’ve had injuries, we had the death of a student and teammate. We had our peaks and valleys, we had a perfect district season. We just got hot at the right time, and I’m super happy and proud of them,” he explained.

Garrard County’s Tavian Neff began the top of the first inning with a hit on the first pitch for a single. Jaydon Noe’s sacrifice bunt advanced Neff into scoring position before Pulaski’s starting pitcher, Mason Acton, grabbed his first two strikeouts of the contest to retire the side.

Brysen Dugger was walked on a full count in the bottom of the first. The Maroons did the same as their opponents, as Brady Cain laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Dugger into scoring position. A huge shot from Acton landed just shy of clearing the wall in right field, but did result in an RBI triple that gave Pulaski the early 1-0 lead. Bryce Cowell struck the ball just over the glove of the short stop for an RBI single that increased the Maroons’ lead to 2-0.

Marshall Livesay was then walked to continue the fast start for Pulaski. Another big shot, this one from Aiden Wesley, resulted in an RBI double to give the Maroons their third run off the frame. The Golden Lions were forced to bring on Caden Neff to pitch following this.

An error on a pop fly from Wessen Falin loaded up the bases for the Maroons. Jace Frye then absolutely blasted the ball out of the park in left field for a grand slam, giving the Maroons a 7-0 lead as their torrential downpour of offense continued.

The top of the order came back around and Dugger was walked again with two outs. A walk on Cain put runners on the corners before a bending hit from Acton into right field went for a two RBI single to make the score 9-0. The inning finally came to a close but not before the Maroons got out to a very comfortable lead.

Two walks and an error with one out loaded the bases for Garrard in the top of the second, with that comfortable feeling starting to fade. An RBI single from sophomore Brayden Poynter gave the Golden Lions their first run of the ball game before a throwing error made the score 9-2. A strikeout and a catch in the outfield got the Maroons out of the dangerous situation soon after.

Pulaski went a quick three up and three down in the bottom of the second, with Caden Neff recording two straight strikeouts.

A double from junior Merrick Graham began the top of the third single, with Graham advancing to third after a wild pitch. Senior Mason Reynolds had a fly ball that got him on base following a Pulaski County error, making the score 9-3. Two straight strikeouts from Acton brought about the end of the Golden Lions’ offense this frame.

Kam Hargis made it on base in the bottom of the third after being walked. A Cain blast to deep left brought home a run on the double, increasing Pulaski’s lead to 10-3. A walk on Acton put Maroons on the corners with two outs, with Cowell being hit by a pitch shortly after to load the bases up. Livesay was hit by another pitch to make the score 11-3.

A ground ball hit by Wesley into left field scored two runs and made it 13-3, putting the contest into run rule territory. An RBI from Falin made the score 14-3, with the Maroons now just needing 4 runs to end the game. Freshman Zach Stacey then entered the game to pitch as the Golden Lions made another change on the mound. A fly out finally brought an end to the third frame.

Two strikeouts from Acton led to a quick top of the fourth inning for the Golden Lions, as they were still in danger of going home early.

Hargis led off in the bottom of the fourth and found solid contact for a single. Dugger brought him home on an RBI single to make the score 15-3. An infield single from Cain put runners on the corners and brought the game-winning run to the plate. Acton was hit by a pitch to load the bases up with no outs.

A sacrifice fly RBI from Cowell made the score 16-3 in favor of the Maroons. A ground out from Livesay brought home the 17th run of the evening for Pulaski and put them one run away from ending the game. The Golden Lions then turned the final out on a ground out, but needed at least five runs with just three outs to work with in order to continue the game.

Fitting it was, that the song playing at the beginning of the fifth inning was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, as the Maroon faithful in attendance could feel the win coming for them. A hit from Graham for a single gave Garrard a base runner with one out, before a double play gave the Maroons their first 12th Region title since 2002.

Following the game, the All-Tournament was announced and on the team from Wayne County was Gage Gregory, from Somerset Raygan New, from West Jessamine Andrew Wilkins , from Mercer County Evan Hart, from Boyle County Kason Meyers and Coleman Stewart, from Southwestern Braden Morrow and Cameron Shipp, from Garrard County Merrick Graham, Tavion Neff and Logan Quinn, and from Pulaski County Kam Hargis, Carter Ross, Mason Acton and Brysen Dugger. The MVP was Pulaski’s Aiden Wesley, who certainly earned it after hitting for seven RBI’s over the course of the tournament and being nearly impossible to get out at the plate. Coach Mayfield had high words of praise for his senior following the game.

“Super happy for Aiden, he started off the season a bit cold, but I told him once you get going going you’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. He got hot at the right time,” he expounded.

Pulaski was led by four RBI’s and the grand slam from Frye, as well as three RBI’s from Acton and Wesley, two apiece from Cowell and Livesay and one each from Dugger, Cain and Falin. Acton pitched all five innings, allowing three runs on four hits while walking two and striking out seven. Garrard County was led by their lone RBI from Poynter.

The Maroons will next look forward to the state tournament next week, to be hosted at the home stadium of the Lexington Counter Clocks. Admittedly, coach Mayfield isn’t looking toward that game yet and just wants his team to celebrate the victory.

“I haven’t even thought a lot about it to be honest. Really we’re just going to celebrate this and enjoy it, and then look at that next week and get ready for it,” he elucidated.

Pulaski County will play in the night cap on day two of the state tournament. They are scheduled to play the champions from Region 2 in Henderson County, with that game being set to start at 8:30 p.m. next Friday.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at jpratt@somerset-kentucky.com. You can follow him on Twitter @PrattTheNation

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