Greenup County is no stranger to winning 63rd District baseball titles — as evidenced by the Musketeers being prepared to celebrate the 2014 crown by procuring championship T-shirts before the district final.
What was unusual was the way the latest one was won.
Minutes shy of 24 hours after the game began, sophomore Christian Wireman polished off a two-hitter by fanning Lewis County star Sammy Holder looking to preserve a 2-1 victory Thursday, giving Greenup County its seventh district championship in eight years.
“I’ve never been in a district situation like this, where you play one day and you (have to) come back,” Musketeers coach Greg Logan said. “But the kids were focused, and they knew exactly what they had to do.”
Greenup County (21-15) didn’t even score Thursday. It didn’t have to, after Tristan Downing drilled a two-run home run on the last pitch thrown Wednesday before lightning forced first a delay and then a postponement.
Wireman made that stand up by not allowing a hit until the Lions’ Jordan Doyle singled with one out in the sixth inning. He had to pitch around four errors behind him in the last three innings and finished with just one strikeout — the game-ender.
The Musketeers got outs on ground balls for 15 of their 21 outs.
“They made plays out there,” Wireman said of his teammates. “Had a couple mistakes, but I was hitting my spots and the defense made plays.”
Added Logan: “I’ve never seen a kid probably any more focused than what he was (Wednesday) night, and it carried over today. Prepared really, really well, battled through some adversity right there.
“We did kick it around there a time or two. Typically, that’s not us, but Christian, he battled so hard, and he was in command.”
Lewis County (16-14) never had two runners on simultaneously until Doyle’s sixth-inning single put runners on first and second with one out. Wireman then got Daulton Mason on a solid flyout to left and Jordan McCann on a groundout to shortstop Chase Clary.
In the seventh, the Lions’ Wade Adams doubled and scored on a two-out error on Seth Wallingford’s grounder.
That rolled Lewis County’s lineup over to the top of the order and leadoff hitter Holder. But the senior passed on Wireman’s full-count curveball, and home-plate umpire Chris Ward rang him up for a game-ending called strike three.
“I’ll take our chances 10 out of 10 times with Sammy at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning,” Lions coach Jack Lykins said. “He’s heartbroken right now, but he’ll pick his head up and he’ll come back. He’s one of the best players to come through this school.
“I talked to (Holder), asked him where the pitch was, (and) he said he thought it was outside. He knows, he told me, ‘I can’t take a pitch like that.’”
Lykins later made a point to credit umpires Ward, Randy Ross and Davey Anderson on being “outstanding” throughout the tournament.
The teams combined for just five hits.
Jordan Davis took the decision for the Lions. He got the start Wednesday, though Lykins had previously planned to start Holder, and went two innings. After allowing Downing’s homer Wednesday, Davis struck out the first two hitters he faced Thursday.
Holder replaced Davis at that point and threw the final five innings, allowing two hits and striking out three.
“We couldn’t ask Sammy to do any more,” Lykins said, “but we made one mistake, the kid knocked it over the fence, and it’s the ballgame.”
Lightning struck Vanceburg on Wednesday literally as Downing’s homer was in the air, headed beyond the left-field fence. It scored J.B. Brown, who had walked.
“Tristan is a free swinger,” Logan said. “Tristan is a Vladimir Guerrero. If it is hittable, if it’s in the zone, if it’s 2 feet away, he’s gonna jerk his head, jerk his neck, and he’s gonna swing at it. And it was an 0-2 pitch, and Tristan is probably by far the best 0-2 hitter that we have (and) the best 0-2 hitter, I think, in the region.”
Senior J.T. Boggs, the Musketeers’ leading hitter, made his first plate appearance for Greenup County since undergoing surgery Friday to repair a torn meniscus. He was cleared to play Thursday. He grounded into a double play in the fifth inning, but the Musketeers are just glad to have him back.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid, and for him to have surgery around a week ago and to be back out here has gotta say something for our trainers and the doctors,” Logan said. “We desperately need his bat in the lineup, so hopefully Monday he still keeps healing. We miss him and we need him back out there.”
Both teams advance to next week’s 16th Region Tournament at East Carter. And both feel confident they can be in the mix for a region title.
“That’s what we’ve talked to these kids about all year is, we’re good enough to win the region if we play, and we’ll just have to do it the hard way now,” Lykins said. “We’ve got a really good pitching staff ... and I like our chances with our pitchers.”
Countered Logan: “We made a statement. I think right now we’re the best team in the 16th Region and 63rd District, and it could be a possible (rematch with Lewis County) in the 16th Region Tournament, and I’m all for that.”
GREENUP CO. 020 000 0 — 0 3 4
LEWIS CO. 000 000 1 — 1 2 0
Wireman and Shoupe; Davis, Holder (3) and Wallingford. W — Wireman. L — Davis. 2B — Adams (LC). HR — Downing (GC).
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.