12th Region Baseball Tournament Championship: Bat Patriots title hopes crushed in region final
Published 3:09 pm Thursday, June 8, 2017
MT. VERNON — Lincoln County’s baseball team, just one win away from a regional championship and a berth in the state tournament, instead saw its title hopes slip away in heartbreaking fashion.
Boyle County’s Ty Dragan, the 12th Region Tournament’s MVP, cranked out two three-run home runs and Hunter Mason knocked out a solo home run to give the Rebels all the cushion they needed to defeat the Bat Patriots 10-3 and end their season.
For Lincoln coach Tee Ellis, whose team had scored two upsets to reach the region’s championship game, Wednesday’s loss was a heartbreaker.
“We worked hard. This is where we wanted to be to have a chance. The ball game just didn’t go our way tonight,” he said. “We can look back that there were a few opportunities to score, but a few balls didn’t fall for us. That’s how it worked out.”
While some may have discounted Lincoln as a regional title contender due to past season performances and a sub-.500 record this year, Ellis believed.
“I knew we had the talent to be here at the end of the season playing for a spot in the state tournament. I knew the team. I knew the talent was there,” he said. “We just had to put it all together. And they did. It just didn’t end the way we had hoped.”
The only trips Boyle County has made to the state baseball tournament in the past 11 seasons have been as spectators. But that all changed when the Rebels knocked off the Bat Pats to punch their ticket to the 2017 KHSAA State Baseball Tournament.
“We hadn’t been here in nine and hadn’t won in 12 so it’s very special,” Boyle coach Kyle Wynn said of the Rebels’ first region title win since 2005. “I’m so proud of these guys. Day in and day out they believed and kept fighting. We had a couple spots in the season where I think they doubted themselves a little bit, and they got back to where they are. So hats off to our coaches, our program, our parents, and the whole Boyle County community. We’re happy to bring it home.”
Boyle (27-11) never trailed in the ballgame, scoring all the runs it needed for the win in a six-run second inning. The Rebels went scoreless over the next three innings before capping their regional title run with a four-run sixth.
Drew Baker connected for a two-out double to get the Rebels started in their six-run second inning at-bat. Tevin Leigh followed Baker on base with a walk, then moved around to third when Cameron Walker tagged an RBI-double to plate Baker. Leigh later scored on a Lincoln error. Karson Thompson took first on the error and Walker moved over to third to set Dragan up for his first three-run home run. The junior shortstop sent Sawyer Carrier’s pitch over the left field fence to put the Rebels up 5–0.
That would not be the only Boyle long ball in the inning, with Hunter Mason following up Dragan’s homer with a solo shot of his own, also to left field, to extend the lead to 6-0.
“In this situation at the end, we try to play loose because we haven’t been here in a while,” Wynn said. “The easiest thing to do is kind of get down on yourself and doubt yourself so when you can score early and play loose a little bit that helps a lot. Luckily we got out to that big lead and scored those six runs.”
Lincoln (15-20) cut the Boyle deficit in half in the top of the fifth inning, getting three runners across home plate. Hunter Jeffries led off the at-bat with a bunt he turned into a double. He then moved to second on a wild pitch before scoring on a Garrett Clem single. Luke Smith, who was walked four times in the game, joined Clem on base with his first walk and both runners scored on wild pitches by Boyle starter Tristan Helton.
The Bat Patriots left two runners on base in the fifth, with Drew Baker, who came on to replace Helton with two outs, getting the final out. The third-strike call on Noah Horton was questioned by Ellis, with the Lincoln coach saying it was a foul tip and not a third strike, but the out stood.
Lincoln missed a big opportunity in the top of the sixth inning by leaving three runners on base. Baker loaded up the bases with walks on Parker Monhollen, Jeffries and Smith and only one out. But Baker got out of the jam by getting a strikeout on Cooper Brown and getting Horton to ground out.
Boyle allowed Lincoln no closer than three runs, coming out in the bottom of the sixth and adding four more runs.
Walker led off with a walk and Thompson reached on a bunt before Dragan knocked out his second three-run homer to left field. Helton, who singled to reach, tacked on another run off a wild pitch for the final.
Wynn commended Dragan for his two three-run homers, but he didn’t consider that his finest feat of the tourney.
“He did a nice job tonight,” Wynn said. “The biggest thing everyone knows is his offense. They know how good he is on offense. But he doesn’t pitch a lot for us and he came in in a tight spot last night (9-3 win over Rockcastle) and shut the door. He doesn’t do that. I was more impressed with what he did on the mound last night.”
Ellis said the four runs in the sixth took the wind out of Lincoln’s sails.
“It was deflating,” he said. “Those were tough. Any deficit is tough to overcome, but when you get runs added on you late in the game it makes it a little harder. And, you know, momentum swings back and forth and it seems like it swung back in their favor with the late runs.”
As Wynn watched his Rebels celebrate their victory, he commended Lincoln for their season and a strong tourney run.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Lincoln,” he said. “We went to battle four times this year. One was by two runs and the other two were by one run. It was not easy by any means. They fight, fight, fight, and I knew they weren’t going to quit. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Ellis, Daryl Day and their whole coaching staff and their team.”
Ellis said that he saw the‘fight, fight, fight’ Wynn spoke of all season long.
“Our boys fought hard all year,” he said. “That’s something to be proud of. They never gave up. We were always in the game. It was a tough one tonight.”
The regional championship loss means the end of the road for Lincoln’s seven seniors – Cooper Brown, Joshua Caudill, Noah Horton, Hunter Jeffries, Jarred Long, Parker Monhollen and Luke Smith.
“I’m so proud of each and every one of them,” Ellis said of the seniors. “They worked hard. They set the bar for where we need to be. How they worked in practice, how they played in games, not taking a pitch off. That’s where we want to be. Hopefully the younger guys saw that and continue with it.”
12th Region Championship
Lincoln 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 – 3 6 3
Boyle 0 6 0 0 0 4 x- 10 12 2