As pitcher-third baseman Seth Boyle put it, Ashland Post 76 went from a “wild bad” experience late Tuesday night to a “crazy wild” ride the next day.
With a State Tournament berth hanging in the balance, Post 76 overcame a three-run deficit in the final three innings Wednesday for a 10-9 elimination-game victory over Latonia Post 203 at Central Park.
Ashland reached the 20-win mark for the season and advanced to meet Shelbyville Post 37 later Wednesday night in the championship round of the District 4 tournament.
Shelbyville had the only unblemished record at 2-0 in double-elimination play. Both teams will move on to the State Tournament in Campbellsville.
The Sixers rebounded Wednesday after a ninth-inning collapse against Shelbyville, watching a 6-3 lead turn into an 18-6 defeat.
Logan Salow played a key role in the comeback against Latonia, including a stirring inning of relief pitching to pick up the victory.
The Post 76 center fielder and leadoff hitter doubled in the seventh and scored on Sammy Holder’s single to trim Latonia’s lead to 9-7.
Ashland tied it in the eighth with doubles from J.B. Brown, Jesse James and J.D. Pridemore. With Pridemore at third and one out, the Sixers had a chance for a bigger inning. But Latonia’s drawn-in infield turned a double play, spearing Salow’s sharp one-hopper and trapping Pridemore in a rundown. Salow tried to advance to second on the play but was called out, evoking an incredulous reaction from Salow as well as Ashland’s dugout and fans.
When the Sixers took the field in the ninth, Salow went to the mound. The two-time All-Area Player of the Year who is headed to the University as a preferred walk-on “shut it down” as a pitcher about three weeks ago because of arm trouble.
Salow said his decision to pitch Wednesday had nothing to do with the disputed call.
“I warmed up (in the bullpen) the inning before and was planning on going in anyway,” he said. “I was ready if we got the lead. It was still a do-or-die situation. I felt like I had one or two innings in me.”
Besides, Salow added, “Seth Boyle threw nine innings (Tuesday night) and was coming off mono. If he could do that, I could pitch an inning.”
Salow was brilliant, striking out the side in the top of the ninth with one fastball after another.
“I didn’t want to lose in the district, especially after what happened last night,” he said. “Plus the call at second base. The whole situation got my adrenalin pumping.”
Post 76 coach Mike Delaney smiled when asked about Salow’s dominant pitching display.
“He’s a trooper,” Delaney said. “Logan wanted the opportunity to go to state.”
Delaney paused. ““Logan’s dad is probably going to kill me for letting him throw, but nobody was going to stop him.”
Ashland’s offense, which piled up 20 hits, closed it out in the bottom of the ninth.
Sammy Holder drew a leadoff walk. Boyle followed with his fourth single of the night and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Aaron Elam greeted Joey Cochran — Latonia’s fourth pitcher of the game — with a drive over the center fielder’s head as Holder trotted home.
“I’m proud of them,” Delaney said. “We left a lot of runners on base early and booted the ball around some. These guys didn’t get down. They got it done.”
For the second time in two days against Latonia, every Post 76 starter had at least one hit. Brown went 3-for-4, including two of Ashland’s six doubles. The only time he was retired came on a deep fly ball. Boyle reached base five of six trips, except for a lineout to shortstop. Elam and Nick Thompson each finished with three hits, while Pridemore had two.
Post 76 improved to 20-13-2.
The Sixers led 3-0 and 5-2, but Latonia put up five runs in the fifth, aided by RBI singles from Jake Lankhert and Blake Maines. Ryan Mullen and Maines each contributed three of the northern Kentucky team’s 13 hits.
LATONIA 000 250 200 — 9 13 2
ASHLAND 030 201 121 — 10 20 6
Maines, Neihaus (5), Mullen (8), Cochran (9) and Lankhert; Hutchinson, Fritz (5), Salow (9) and Wells, James (7) and Fritz (9). W—Salow. L—Mullen. 2B—Maines (L), Mullen (L), Brown 2 (A), Thompson (A), Salow (A), James (A), Pridemore (A).