Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 3, 2014

Lions’ season ends with 12-0 rout at state tournament

LEXINGTON — The Nos. 1 and 2 hitters in Conner’s lineup created a hairy situation for Boyd County on Tuesday afternoon.

Cameron Ross and Blaise Ostertag peppered the Lions with a pile of hits and RBIs as the Cougars beat Boyd County, 12-0, in six innings in the opening round of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Ross and Ostertag pestered Boyd County from the first pitch, which Ross lined to left field. They combined for three singles, two doubles and a triple to go with five RBIs. The duo reached base in all eight of their total plate appearances.

Boyd County watched two early offensive opportunities fade fast as Conner cranked up the heat with two outs in the second inning.

Trailing 1-0 with a two-strike count on ninth hitter Jeff Schneider, Lions senior Billy McCoy tried to fool the right-handed hitter with a breaking ball. Schneider turned on it, shooting an RBI double down the third-base line into left field for an RBI double. Two more runs followed on a hard-hit double by Ross and a triple by Ostertag that sneaked under the glove of diving right fielder Ethan Hicks. With that, Conner took a 4-0 lead.

Conner tallied seven two-out RBIs in the contest.

“We’ve just been clutch,” said eighth-year Conner coach Brad Arlinghaus. “Our two-out hitting has been outstanding since the district tournament.”

The Cougars, Ninth Region champions and winners of 10 straight games, chased McCoy by the fifth frame, racking up 10 hits en route to an 8-0 lead.

Blake Hart supplied the biggest blow when he ripped a laser down the right-field line for a three-run double in the fifth. Ryan Ward followed with an RBI double. He finished with three RBIs.

“We came here to compete every single at-bat,” Ross said. “We let the bad pitches go and hit the good ones.”

Tanner Bryan relieved McCoy in the fifth. The junior who notched the complete-game, eight-frame victory over Ashland in the 16th Region championship sat the Cougars down in order in the fifth before encountering his own trouble in the sixth. Conner reeled off three consecutive singles to plate four runs, expanding the lead to 12-0.

Brock Damron led off the bottom of the sixth with a single — one of four Boyd County hits — but Hart kept the shutout intact as Conner punched a ticket into the state quarterfinals. It will face North Bullitt on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Conner (26-9) dealt the Lions (22-16) their first shutout all season, and their most lopsided loss.

Zane Purscelley went 2-for-2 for Boyd County. The junior left fielder laid down a beautiful drag bunt along the third-base line in the second and later poked a single into right field in the fifth.

“This is my first time down here, and I came out fired up and ready to play,” said the Lions’ nine-hole hitter. “I think we had a heck of a season. At first, we didn’t play real well, but, at the end, we played to our full potential.”

Purscelley added that he thinks Boyd County has a legitimate shot of repeating as region champions.

The Lions graduate four seniors — McCoy, Corey Harper, Slone Alley and Jake Cook. Boyd County coach Brandon Ramsey said all will be missed.

The sixth-year Lions coach, who also led Boyd County to the state tournament in 2011, said it was a shame for McCoy to finish his career with a state tournament loss, but he was pleased with how the right-handed Kentucky Wesleyan signee pitched.

“We knew going in that the top five guys in their lineup hit really well,” Ramsey said. “Early in the game, (McCoy) made pitches but the ball kind of fell in. Then, we didn’t make a couple defensive plays — not necessarily errors — we would normally make. When you’re playing a team that’s that hot offensively, it’s hard to keep giving them extra outs.”

Ramsey hopes the loss ignites a desire to end 2015 in Lexington, too.

“I’m hoping this puts a fire in us for years to come,” Ramsey said. “We had a good year, and a good run at the end. We’ll take some positives and try to roll on and have another run here next year, hopefully.”

After claiming its first region crown since 1979, Conner keeps on rolling. Arlinghaus has instilled a “Fear the Beard” theme to go along with his mighty whiskers.

Ross and Ostertag don’t tout facial hair, but Ross sports a shaved head with the exception of a long blonde rat tail. Ostertag has the look of an ‘80s hair band lead singer.

Ross, committed to be a preferred walk-on at the University of Cincinnati, worked four innings of two-hit baseball. He struck out five.

Both Jacob Barnwell (single) and Dylan Grimm (walk) reached base in the first inning, and Braden Wyatt (walk), Purscelley (single) and Jordan Smith (hit-by-pitch) found their way aboard in the second, but the Lions couldn’t take advantage against Ross.

“This was the biggest game these kids have ever played,” Arlinghaus said. “I think (Ross) just settled down, calmed his nerves, went out there and fixed what he was doing wrong.”

Only three more Boyd County players reached base the rest of the afternoon.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.


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