It may or may not be a cliché, but coaches, seemingly since the beginning of time, are fond of saying that teams are only as strong as their seniors.
Last Wednesday, the Harrison County Thorobreds got strong play from two of their seniors, defeated Beechwood in the second game of their best-of-three series, 3-0, and advanced to their second straight “Elite Eight,” this week at Applebee’s Park in Lexington.
Senior shortstop Eric Case laced a second inning double down the right field line to score Shane Fowler and give the Breds a 1-0 lead. Senior catcher Bobby Feeback followed with a line drive single up the middle to score Case and extend that lead to 2-0, more than enough runs for sophomore pitcher Logan Dailey.
“I am so happy for those two guys,” said HCHS coach Mac Whitaker of Case and Feeback’s clutch hits. “They have been great leaders for us all year and deserve to have good things happen for them and for our team. Both of them have delivered clutch hits and played great defensively for the entire post-season.”
Beechwood threatened to score in each of the first four innings, but were thwarted by the Harrison County defense in each of those innings.
In the first inning, with a runner at second and one out, Beechwood’s Chas Hyde ripped a line drive that Case snagged and doubled Zach Larimore off of second.
In the second inning, Nate Snyder walked and stole second. A chopper down the third base line resulted in an infield single by Joe Colosimo, but an alert Harrison County defense nabbed Snyder trying to make it to third on the play. C.J. Bertke then grounded to Matthew Dye at second base, who tagged Colosimo and threw to first for the Breds second double play.
In the third inning, A.J. Smith led off and reached on an error. After Darrick Brilz popped out, Michael Colosimo grounded a ball up the middle that Dye snagged and turned into another twin killing.
In the fourth inning, Larimore and Bertke led off with singles to give the Tigers runners at first and second with no outs. Hyde then grounded one up the middle that Case caught, stepped on second and threw to Christian Chasteen at first for another double play. Snyder then grounded out to Case for the third out.
“This is one of the best defensive teams we have had, probably since Kiley Vaughn and J.B. Schmidt played,” said Whitaker. “We have played as well defensively as most college teams you will see.”
Dailey took advantage of the Breds air-tight defense and eventually settled in. The big sophomore fanned his first two batters of the night in the fifth inning, added another strikeout in the sixth and ended the game by striking out Bertke.
“Logan didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled all night and didn’t hurt himself with walks,” said Whitaker. “He is smart enough to realize that he has a good defense behind him.”
Dailey scattered five hits in the contest, struck out four and walked three.
Harrison County added an insurance run in the fifth inning. Malcolm Thomas led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Eric Sanders and came home on a single by Dye.
“I was pleased with the way we executed in special situations,” said Whitaker. “You have to do the little things in order to win in the post-season, and so far we have been able to do that.”
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Case was deservedly named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He got three hits in eight at-bats and had three RBIs. He also fielded flawlessly at shortstop and even came on to pitch in the first inning of the opening game win over Beechwood, striking out two batters to end a big scoring threat.
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Dye was ejected from the game in the fifth inning and will be forced to sit out the first game of the state tournament on Thursday night. On a controversial play, Dye was deemed to have intentionally made contact with the Beechwood catcher while trying to score.
By rule, he was declared out on the play and ejected from the game by home plate umpire Keith Morgan, for alleged “malicious contact”.
“There was nothing malicious about the play, but Matthew did make contact with the catcher,” said Whitaker, who argued at length after the call was made. “That’s the first time in my 32 years as the coach that we have had a player ejected. I disagree with the severity of the punishment, especially with two similar plays in other semi-state tournaments that were not called the way this one was.”
In the Lexington Catholic game against Danville, a LexCath runner bowled over the Danville catcher and no ejection was made. In the Bullitt East against Elizabethtown game, a Bullitt East runner apparently made intentional contact with the E-town catcher and, again, no ejection was made.
“We protested to the KHSAA that there was obviously an inconsistency in how those three plays were called and that Matthew, and our baseball team, were being unfairly punished,” said Whitaker. “The other two players, who in my opinion were much more flagrant in their actions, will get to play in the first round of the state tournament and Matthew will have to sit out.”
“Their (KHSAA) response to us was that the umpire in our game got the call right and the umpires in the other two games got it wrong. There isn’t anything we can do about it at this point, so we’ll just have to make an adjustment and go on.”
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Regular starting catcher Josh Moss was suspended and did not play in the series against Beechwood, but is back with the team and will be available to play in the state tournament.