Visiting East Carter gave Ashland a rocky return to Alumni Field.
Scoring seven times with two outs, East Carter defeated the Tomcats 8-5 on Thursday in Ashland’s first game at its home field this season following several upgrades to the ballpark.
Alumni Field’s makeover included the addition of a large, attractive scoreboard as well as new bleachers. The field has been aerated and rolled, and work has begun for a new storage building on the right-field side.
Ashland opened the season with three “home” games in Central Park, travelled to Louisville for a spring break tournament, then played six more on the road.
East Carter foiled the Tomcats’ homecoming by scoring two runs in each of the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
“It’s a good win for us,” Raiders coach Jeremiah Shearer said. “We talked about building momentum coming down the stretch this season. We had a good win over Russell (13-5) on Monday and followed up with this one.
Leadoff hitter Conner Staton collected three hits and drove in three runs. East Carter also got production at the bottom of the lineup from Zack Cathey and Cole Brammer.
Staton’s two-run single in the second inning scored Cathey and Brammer to put the Raiders in front to stay. Ashland had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on Cade O’Bryan’s RBI double.
“Conner did a good job setting the tone,” Shearer said.
Cathey and Brammer, batting eighth and ninth, reached base a combined five times and scored four runs. Brammer also put down a two-strike squeeze bunt in the seventh to extend East Carter’s lead to 7-5. An Ashland throwing error scored Jacob Coleman with the final run.
“When you are getting production out of the eighth and ninth hitters, you are going to score runs,” Shearer said. “Those two guys really gave us a big lift.”
Along with a 10-hit attack, East Carter received help from Ashland. Starting pitcher Evan Yongue accounted for three hit batsmen in his five innings and the Tomcats had four overall. Two of them, along with Yongue’s only walk, came around to score.
“Those always come back to haunt you,” Ashland coach Jeff Wilcox said.
All three of Ashland’s errors also figured into East Carter’s scoring.
“We are just making too many mistakes right now,” Wilcox said of the defending 16th Region champs. “We aren’t playing very well as a team.”
Wilcox added that he doesn’t think the Tomcats are excited enough right now about playing.
“We just show up,” he said. “When you come out there with passion, you play better. Until we do, I think we are going to take our lumps.”
East Carter (9-10) duplicated its second inning by scoring twice in the fourth after Yongue retired the first two batters. This time, Cathey, Brammer, Staton and Jesse James hit consecutive singles.
The Raiders stretched the lead to 6-2 in the fifth with more two-out production. Cathey’s infield single brought in one run and Ashland’s error on the throw to first also allowed Coleman to cross the plate.
Ashland (7-7) took advantage of two East Carter fielding miscues to score three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Evan Cox capped the rally with a two-run single to make it 6-5.
East Carter not only came away with one of its biggest wins of the season, but may have found a new closer.
Hard-throwing senior Cole Boggs struck out two batters while working a scoreless seventh to pick up the save.
“We lost five or six one-run games in the last inning,” Shearer said. “As a coaching staff, we thought we needed someone to come in and close things down.”
Boggs, previously a starter, had a pattern of running up high pitch counts in the third and fourth innings and sometimes lost focus, according to Shearer.
“He looked great tonight,” said the Raiders head coach. “I think this role suits him.”
East Carter sophomore Chandler Adams started on the mound, but pitched only one inning before aggravating a strained back muscle. Matt Rodgers and Chandler Duncan worked the next five innings.
EAST CARTER 020 220 2 — 8 10 2
ASHLAND 100 130 0 — 5 7 3
Adams, Rodgers (2), Duncan (4), Boggs (7) and Wells; Yongue, Kelley (5), Hall (7) and Fritz. W—Rodgers. L—Yongue. 2B—O’Bryan (A), Staton (EC).