Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 3, 2014

Central topples Tates Creek; gets first win at state since 2004

LEXINGTON — Asked to keep Johnson Central in the game against top-ranked Tates Creek in the opening round of the state baseball tournament Tuesday, eighth-grade hurler Tate Meade showed why coach Shawn Hall said he “must have ice water in his veins.”

Meade threw three relief innings of one-run ball to chill the Commodores.

The Golden Eagles backed him with two RBIs apiece from Bo Robbins, Austin Davis and Chaynse Hill in an 8-4 toppling of Tates Creek, earning their first win in state tournament play since 2004.

Geordan Blanton and Hill each had two hits for Johnson Central (31-10), which has won 18 of its last 20 games.

The Golden Eagles came out loose, leading 2-0 after a half-inning and 3-1 after their second at-bat.

Tates Creek (33-7-1) rallied to tie the game at 3 through three innings, but Johnson Central put up a 5-spot in the fifth and led from there.

“We told our guys: ‘We have nothing to lose. (Tates Creek has) everything to lose. They’re expected to win,’” Hall said. “Our guys had no reason to be nervous, doubtful, fearful, and they came out and played like they were supposed to.”

Added senior center fielder Jordan Young after scoring two runs: “No one believed we would win this game, and we used that as motivation.”

Meade ran his record to 8-0, scattering two hits and three walks with two punchouts in relief of Seth Blanton. Quade Ward pitched around two hits in the seventh to shut it down.

“I was real nervous (upon coming in),” Meade said. “It’s awesome, but real nerve-wracking.”

You couldn’t tell that just watching him pitch.

“I don’t look at him as an eighth-grader. I look at him as a good pitcher,” Hall said. “That’s what he is. He comes in every time for us and performs.”

Meade and his fellow pitchers got some help behind them, too.

Armed with an 8-4 lead, Meade walked the first two hitters he faced in the sixth. But first baseman Hill cleanly picked Tates Creek’s Max Sweet’s hot shot, forced Sweet out at the bag and tagged out Jaren Shelby in a rundown on the back end of a 3-6-3 play.

In the seventh, Ward surrendered back-to-back one-out hits. But as Jordan Fucci hit the ball off the right-field wall, Devin Hairston held up at first to make sure the ball would drop, then found himself in trouble when he advanced only one base and Fucci motored for second.

So Hairston had to take off for third, and he was thrown out there on the relay – from Johnson Central right fielder Zach Slone to shortstop Blanton to third baseman Juwan Mayes.

That took Tates Creek down to its final out. Pinch-hitter Justice Sloan flied out to right field to end it, with the Golden Eagles dugout spilling onto the field to celebrate.

“It’s a little surreal right now, to beat the No. 1 team in the state on the biggest stage in the state,” Hall said. “I’m so proud of our guys. I thank God for ‘em. We did what we had to do.”

Johnson Central tallied twice in the first on Robbins’s two-RBI single down the left-field line. Hairston got one back with an RBI double in the home half, but Blake Gamble singled home a run for a 3-1 Golden Eagles lead through one and a half frames.

Curtis Bethel singled home a run in the second for the Commodores, though, and Tanner Hart – Tates Creek’s senior ace who started at DH instead of on the hill – scored on an error to tie it up through three.

That simply set up for Johnson Central’s huge fifth. Young singled home a run, and Davis ripped a two-run single down the left-field line.

Hart came on then, with Commodores coach Dom Fucci hoping to hold his team’s deficit at 6-3. But Hill fought off a pitch opposite-field, dropping a bloop single into shallow right to score two more runs.

“I think by that time, we were extremely confident, and we had momentum,” Hall said. “(Hill’s) a senior, he’s not gonna be intimidated, and he knew what he had to do to get those runs in.”

Fucci lamented “a couple plays early in the game” that didn’t go Tates Creek’s way.

“It just didn’t work out,” he said. “Wasn’t in the cards.”

ZACK KLEMME can be reached at zklemme@

dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2658.

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