Two times Tuesday night did Greenup County coach Greg Logan think about taking Will McCall out of the game, and two times did McCall convince his coach there was no need for a change.
Greenup County ended up causing a change in hands in the 63rd District with a 7-3 win over Lewis County in the title game at Russell.
Logan first thought of replacing the senior after the hour and 50-minute rain delay between the first and second innings.
But having thrown fewer than 15 pitches, McCall told Logan he was ready to go back out to the mound.
Two hours later, with his team leading 7-3 in the top of the seventh, Logan once again contemplated the move after Lewis County loaded the bases with one out. The two- and three-hole hitters in the Lions’ batting order were due up.
But, once again, the veteran coach decided to stick with his right-hander.
“I wanted him to do it, but I kind of took two or three steps in his direction and then changed my mind,” the Musketeers coach said.
It proved to be the right decision, as McCall got Grant Liles to strike out swinging for the second out before inducing a Levi Clark popout to second base for the final out to secure the 7-3 victory.
Both teams advance to next week’s 16th Region Tournament, which will be played at Ashland Blazer starting on Monday. The two teams’ opponents will not be determined until Friday’s draw.
“I just can’t say enough about that kid,” Logan said after recalling how his senior star had to miss four weeks of action due to a high ankle sprain. “He was in total control the entire game. He was a senior performer, which is what it is all about.”
McCall was firmly set on cruise control the first five innings in which he didn’t allow a hit. There were only two baserunners allowed in the span — one via a catcher’s interference and the other a two-out walk.
The slender righty struck out eight of the first 17 batters he faced, and six of his total 10 strikeouts were of the looking variety.
Swinging strikeouts have not been uncommon for the Lions, according to Lewis County coach Keith Prater, but the amount of Lions caught looking had Prater frustrated.
“When it is shin to chins (for us), and (Greenup County is) hitting off of a tee, it makes it hard for us to know what the strike zone is,” he said. “But we still have to compete at the plate, and when you have a two-strike count you have to protect. We failed to protect, and I don’t really know why because we have never done that this year. We have struck out many times swinging, but never this many looking.”
Lewis County (27-10) finally cracked into the hit column in the sixth inning on a bunt single by Wade Adams. Adams scored the Lions’ first run three batters later, when Clark’s double to right center field plated both him and Sammy Holder, who walked.
The Lions made Greenup County sweat in the seventh, loading the bases on three consecutive hits with just one out. McCall then walked Holder, which sent in Jordan Davis and brought the tying run to the plate, before ultimately slamming the door on the Lewis County rally.
Even with his team holding a comfortable 6-0 lead after four innings, Logan told his players Lewis County would not go away easily.
“I made sure to tell them to be cautious. I told them they are not going to go easy,” he said. “I knew things would get tough in the end.”
Greenup County (22-12), which really struggled to hit the ball in its win over Raceland on Monday until the final two innings, found its groove early Tuesday night. The Musketeers scored five times in the second inning.
J.T. Boggs got things started with a leadoff triple down the right-field line and scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly by Zach Hutchinson. Seth Boyle plated two later in the inning with a double to right center — his second two-bagger of the night.
During the long delay between the first and second inning, the Lions did choreographed skits, including human bowling and deer hunting, something they have done all season long as a way to have fun and stay loose.
While Prater is a fan of the fun and even encourages it, he said it may have caused his players to become a bit too relaxed and lose focus.
“I thought we had fun which I enjoy. These are just high school kids and they need to have fun,” he said. “I thought we were more relaxed after the rain delay, but unfortunately it just backfired a little bit.”
The Musketeers took a more stoic approach to the delay, spending most of the time lightly tossing back and forth.
While Logan would have been fine had his players decided to join in on the fun, he was glad they stayed focused.
“It didn’t matter to me,” he said. “We have had some of our former graduates come back — Jeremy Barr for the past couple of days and Ethan Hardin — and those guys just told the players to cherish the moment and stay focused. I think that carried over into the situation in the dugout.”
LEWIS CO. 000 002 1 — 3 5 4
GREENUP CO. 050 101 x — 7 11 0
Christy, Davis (2), Duncan (6) and McCann. McCall and Hutchinson. W—McCall. L—Christy. 2B—Boyle 2 (GC), Clark (LC), Brown (GC). 3B—Boggs (GC).