Sometimes, it’s the plays you make that win a ballgame.
Last night, it was a play that wasn’t made, that came back to bite the Somerset Briar Jumpers in the championship game of the 47th District Baseball Tournament against the Rockcastle County Rockets.
And, Rockcastle County rode that misplay to a two-run third inning, and went on to hand the Jumpers their first loss of the season against a district foe, knocking off Somerset in the district final by a final count of 10-2.
Already trailing the Rockets 1-0 in after two innings, thanks to a home run off the bat of pitcher Tanner Perkins, Rockcastle scored two more runs in the top half of the third frame, thanks to a big-time gift from the Briar Jumpers.
With one man out, Adam Wallen got Rockcastle County’s Izak McQueary to hit a lazy fly ball to left center field, for what should have been the second out of the inning with no one on base.
Instead, center fielder Jeremy Toohey and left fielder Kenny Hughes came together and slowed up, and let the ball fall in between them for a gift double.
After a Dakota Smith single put runners at second and third with one out, all of a sudden Wallen was in a big-time jam.
Wallen however battled back and struck out Colby Brown for the second out of the frame, and was ahead in the count 0-2 against Jared Brown. Brown battled back from that 0-2 hole, and drilled a 2-2 pitch from Wallen to center field for a basehit, driving in two runs for a 3-0 Rockcastle County lead.
Instead of being in the dugout, down by just a lone run, Wallen and the Jumpers were all of a sudden in a 3-0 hole, thanks to the misplay in the outfield.
“That was big, no doubt about it,” lamented Jumper coach Phil Grundy after the contest. “We decided to give Will (Thompson) a little time off in left field today because we were going against a lefty. Kenny (Hughes) said he lost the ball in the lights and didn’t see it all, and was calling for help from center. But, that’s baseball. You lose balls in the lights, and it’s just unfortunate that it happened tonight in a huge situation.”
With Wallen and company in a 3-0 hole, meanwhile, Tanner Perkins, the Rockcastle County freshman was cruising right along in this championship tilt.
Perkins had given his club a 1-0 lead with his bomb to right center in the second frame, and he was throwing a masterpiece at the Jumpers on the mound.
Perkins did not allow Somerset a hit in the contest, until a Corey Price double with one out in the top of the fifth inning.
That was just the kind of pitching performance Rockcastle County head coach J.D. Bussell said he was looking for from his youngster, in a big-time environment in a championship game of a district tournament.
“Tanner threw a good game tonight, and I think we’ve got him at 104 pitches,” stated a very happy Rocket head coach.
“He knew he had to come in here and throw strikes and work the corners and change speeds,” added Bussell. “He’s a freshman, but he has maturity beyond his years. One day, if he keeps working hard, I think he’s going to be a very special pitcher.”
After Price’s double in the fifth, one out later John Cole laced a double down the left field line driving in Price, and the Jumpers had trimmed the deficit to 3-1.
In the top of the sixth however, Rock blew this one wide open, scoring five runs off of Wallen, taking a commanding, 8-1 lead.
The big blow in the frame came off the bat of Colby Brown, who had a bases loaded double driving in three of those five runs. Jake Woodall had a run-scoring single in the inning and McQueary drove in another run on a single.
In all, the Rockets sent 10 men to the plate, scoring five runs on four hits, and taking advantage of one Somerset error.
“Adam struggled tonight by getting the ball up in the zone, and got behind in the count,” stated Grundy. He’s just a sophomore, and hopefully he’ll learn from this. I hope this doesn’t pull him down any lower than he is right now, because obviously, he wants to pitch well every time he goes out there.”
“Tonight wasn’t his night, and it wasn’t our night,” stated a dejected Grundy. “Rockcastle came out and they played better, they hit better, and they pitched better. Rockcastle County was the better team tonight, and we didn’t deserve to win. It’s not the end of the world, but I told the guys after the game that’s it’s close.”
Wallen got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the sixth, as he went yard, hitting a deep blast to left center for a solo shot, however that score only brought the Jumpers to within six runs of Rock, trailing Perkins and crew at that juncture of the contest, 8-2.
Corey Price came on in relief of Wallen in the seventh inning, and the Rockets rounded out their scoring by reaching Price for a couple of runs.
Coty Childress doubled in one run and Woodall’s sacrifice fly drove in the other.
With the 10-2 win over Somerset, Rockcastle County evened its record to 14-14 on the season, by winning the 47th District title, but Bussell stated afterwards the loss wasn’t the end of the world for the Briar Jumpers.
In fact, the Rockcastle County skipper says he still thinks the Briar Jumpers are the team to beat, headed into Monday’s 12th Regional Tournament from West Jessamine High School.
“I still think the region is wide open, because there’s just so many good pitchers in the 12th Region,” pointed out Bussell. “I told Phil (Grundy) after we played them the second time this year, that Somerset is the best team in the region, and I’ll stick to that. I haven’t seen Mercer County, and I know they’ve got a really good team, and I know Danville’s got a really good team, but I think from one to nine, defensively and offensively, I really do think Somerset is such a balanced team, they’ve got as good a shot as anyone.”
Probably lost in the aftermath of the misplay in the outfield, and the 10-run outburst by the Rockets, was the fact Somerset managed but four hits in the game against the lefty Perkins.
Well, that fact wasn’t lost by the Jumpers head coach, Phil Grundy.
“I have to question the way our intensity was tonight, and I don’t know if our guys thought that Rockcastle County was just going to let us come in here at our place and take them down without a fight,” stated Grundy.
“They took it to us and we didn’t respond,” said Grundy. “I don’t buy into the thing about it’s hard to beat a team three times in a year. If you’re better than them, you should beat them. Tonight they were better than us. We didn’t do a whole lot at the plate tonight, and I thought we took too many called strikes. We missed a routine fly ball, and a couple of other routine plays, and it cost us. They made the plays tonight, and we didn’t.”
Both Somerset and Rockcastle County will be in action Monday at West Jessamine High School, in the first round of the 12th Regional Baseball Tournament.
Members of the 47th District All-Tournament Team were as follows: John Perkins and Josh Walls from Pulaski County, Corey Dial and Daniel Riddle from Casey County, Jordy Molen and Chase Hall from Somerset, while Colby Brown, Jared Brown, and Tanner Perkins rounded out the team from Rockcastle County.
TEAM R H E
Rockcastle Co. 10 10 0
Somerset 2 4 2
DOUBLES—(SHS) Price 1, J. Cole 1. (RC) C. Brown 2, Childress 1, McQueary 1.
HOMERUNS—(SHS) Wallen 1. (RC) Perkins 1.
RBI’s—(SHS) J. Cole 1, Wallen 1. (RC) C. Brown 3, J. Brown 2, Woodall 2, Childress 1, Perkins 1, McQueary 1.
Sometimes, it’s the plays you make that win a ballgame.