Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 4, 2014

Blanton boys 3-for-3

Three Johnson Central brothers have pitched in state tournament since '04

LEXINGTON — As an 8-year-old boy in the stands, Seth Blanton drifted in and out of baseball diamond daydreams.

One day that would be him, he thought as he watched his oldest brother, Adam, pitch as a Johnson Central Golden Eagle in the state tournament in Lexington.

Adam Blanton pieced together a complete-game effort as the Golden Eagles beat Ashland, 2-1, in the 2004 state quarterfinals at what was then known as Applebees Park. Johnson Central fell short in the semifinals.

Three years later, Justin Blanton, the middle brother, started in the quarterfinal round against heavily favored Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar won 10-0 before rolling to a state title.

On Tuesday, the third of John and Teresa Blanton’s three sons footed the rubber as the starting pitcher on the same mound. Seth threw three innings as Johnson Central pulled off a remarkable upset over No. 1 Tates Creek to advance into the quarterfinals.

“I don’t know if this has ever happened in state history or not,” John said, “but it’s an unbelievable feeling. The special thing about it is watching how hard your boys work.”

Flashbacks were inevitable for Teresa.

“I was thinking back to 10 years ago when we first came with Adam, and now a decade later, here we are again,” Teresa glowed. “It’s just magical.”

Johnson Central hitters gave Seth a two-run cushion before he stepped in between the lines. The Golden Eagles and Commodores were tied at 3-3 when eighth-grader Tate Meade relieved the junior.

Wearing the underdog tag proudly, Johnson Central roughed up Tates Creek pitchers for five runs in a pivotal fifth inning.

By that time, a relaxing sensation washed over Seth. Now, he could shout to the world that his team won a game that he started in the state tournament, a distinction only Adam previously held among the brothers.

“Everybody’s always compared me to him,” Seth said. “They’ve always made it clear that if I couldn’t do what he did that I’m not as good as he ever was. That pressure has always been there. Now it’s kind of a chance to breathe a little bit.”

Adam and Justin both pitched at the University of the Cumberlands. Kentucky had offered Adam before he missed his senior high school season with a back injury.

By the time he got to Cumberlands, Adam was zipping fastballs in the low 90s (miles per hour). He is ranked second all-time in appearances for the Patriots.

Justin played for Marietta College in Ohio for one year before finishing his college career at Cumberlands.

Seth said he’s not finished tracking his oldest brother. Two more wins will advance Seth’s Golden Eagles past the point reached by Adam’s group.

“I want that very badly,” he said. “I want to rub that in a little bit.”

“Typical brothers,” Teresa chuckled. “Seth has always thought he was as big as them anyway.”

Reminded Adam, with a grin: “Hey, they still got two more games to win ...

“... But I hope they go and exceed what we did,” he continued. “It’s great for the state, great for them, great for the fans. It’s a big accomplishment already. This is something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”

Justin’s outing in 2007 didn’t go as desired, but the opportunity alone is still one he cherishes.

“Watching Seth brought back a lot of good memories,” Justin said. “Something that he coveted as he watched us, he did as the last one of us. He wanted that so bad. I couldn’t be any more proud of him.”

Justin left Whitaker wishing he had made a wager with the rest of the Bluegrass on Tuesday.

“If I’d have put $100 on Central today, I would’ve been a millionaire because everybody in the state would’ve bet against me,” Justin said.

Teresa said she was “speechless” when asked about knocking off the top-ranked team.

Claiming to not be superstitious, John sat in the exact seat he occupied in 2004. He took a spot to the left of behind home plate, a few rows from the field.

Because Tates Creek was such a highly touted favorite, John kept his cool as Seth trotted to the mound.

“I was asked if I was nervous before the game and I said no, because we weren’t supposed to win this game,” John said. “They had a nothing-to-lose type situation.”

Seth kept his composure, too. He allowed four hits in three frames.

Next up is the next-best team, in terms of state ranking, coming into the tournament. No. 3 St. Xavier awaits the Golden Eagles tonight at 8:30.

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

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