The bottom of Johnson Central’s lineup turned up big Thursday night.
And the Golden Eagles won their fourth 57th District championship in six years.
Central’s bottom four hitters accounted for six hits and three runs batted in as they cruised to a 7-3 win over Lawrence County at Paintsville’s Charlie Adkins Field.
“Our kids stayed focused and played extremely well,” Johnson Central coach Shawn Hall said.
The Golden Eagles (27-10) won for the 11th time in 12 games and captured their first district title since 2012. They also won the district crown in 2010 and 2009 — both over Lawrence County.
Junior Seth Blanton worked a complete game for the win on the mound. The junior threw 101 pitches, allowing just one earned run on five hits. He also had five strikeouts and walked three.
“I thought Seth did a great job shaking off a rough start and staying composed,” Hall said. “When we have that kind of consistency on the mound, good things happen.”
It turned out great for the Golden Eagles when eighth-grade catcher Blake Gamble drove in two runs in the bottom of the third inning to extend Central’s lead to 6-2. He finished with two hits and three RBI.
“That’s a real big hit for an eighth-grader,” Hall said. “[Blake] has embraced what we have asked him to do all season long.”
Lawrence County (21-12) didn’t have much good fortune on the mound. Eric Salyer and losing pitcher Austin Bailey combined for 3 2/3 innings and six runs.
The Bulldogs had a bright spot in freshman Trace Bowen, who saw varsity action for just the second time this season. He allowed just two hits in a 5-3 win over Hazard on Saturday. Bowen allowed one run in 2 2/3 innings.
“I guarantee you [Trace] will be pitching next week in the regional tournament,” said a frustrated Lawrence County coach Travis Feltner. “If your guys want to throw strikes, they’ll play.”
The Bulldogs’ bottom half of the lineup was held hitless.
“That was the difference in the game,” Feltner said. “They made plays, we didn’t.”
Centerfielder Joe Wallen had two singles and an RBI to lead the Bulldogs.
Shortstop Geordan Blanton and leftfielder Austin Davis rounded out three Central players with multiple hits.
Both teams will advance to next week’s 15th Region Tournament at Sheldon Clark High School. The tournament drawing will be held Saturday with opening round games set for Monday.
LAWRENCE CO. 110 100 0 – 3 5 2
JOHNSON CENTRAL 132 010 x – 7 12 2