A perchance meeting between baseball powers from the 14th and 16th Regions turned into a barnburner.
Boyd County’s Jacob Barnwell, a .469 hitter, disdains walks but gladly took a four-pitch free pass with the bases loaded in the sixth inning to break a tie and give the Lions a 12-11 win over Hazard on Friday night at Larry Addington Field.
The walk capped a three-run rally after Hazard scored six in the top of the inning for an 11-9 lead.
“Getting walked isn’t any fun, but when the count went to 3-0 I wasn’t going to chance it,” Barnwell said.
The standout sophomore catcher then sealed the victory by moving to the mound and recording his first save of the season.
Asked to sum up the rollercoaster contest, Barnwell smiled.
“High intensity and so suspenseful,“ he replied.
Barnwell, making only his second pitching appearance this spring, ended the drama in the seventh inning by retiring the side in order — only the second time it happened all night.
“I only got three warmup pitches in the bullpen but was ready to go,” he said.
Barnwell began by getting dangerous leadoff hitter Austin Johnson on a nice-breaking slider for a called third strike. A groundout and another strikeout ended it.
“I love catching, but getting a few innings pitching here and there is fun to have,” Barnwell said. “When I came in, I told myself I had to locate pitches.”
Boyd County’s scheduled game at Rowan County on Friday was cancelled due to a wet field in Morehead, so coach Brandon Ramsey send out a mass email to state coaches asking if anybody would be interested in playing on short notice.
Within 10 minutes, Ramsey received a response from coach John Meehan of Hazard (16-3), which also had a cancellation.
“You either play a game or practice in the gym,” Meenhan said. “You can’t learn anything in the gym. We had a cancellation at 11 a.m. It was 12:30 when I got the email, so I just called our bus driver back and said, 'Let’s go to Boyd County.'”
Meehan knew the competition would be worth the trip. Last year, Hazard beat the visiting Lions 15-8.
“Anytime you butt heads with Boyd County, it’s going to be good,” the coach said.
Barnwell and Lions leadoff man Robbie Shivel each reached base safely all five trips to the plate.
Barnwell walked three times, was hit by a pitch and also had a run-scoring double in the fifth. Shivel, batting .341 at game time, doubled twice, singled, walked and also drew an intentional walk. He scored three runs and drove in a pair.
“The kid can hit for sure,” Barnwell said of Shivel. “He probably has the most pure swing on the team.”
Dylan Grimm singled twice, drove in a run and scored another for the Lions. Third baseman Billy McCoy hit a three-run single in the first, singled and scored in the sixth and also made a terrific defensive play.
“What a game,” Ramsey said. “Four or five lead changes. It was a fun game for people to watch, and definitely fun to coach. Both teams kept going at each other.”
The Lions don’t have much time to savor the victory. At 11 a.m. today they are scheduled to resume a suspended game against Ashland.
Hazard finished with 10 hits, half of them coming in the Bulldogs’ big sixth inning.
HAZARD 122 006 0 — 11 10 1
BOYD CO. 300 243 x — 12 12 3
Conley, Nidiffer (5), Wells (6) and Roll; Patton, Sublett (4), Barnwell (7) and Barnwell, West (7). W—Sublett. L—Wells. 2B—Shivel 2 (BC), Smith (BC), Barnwell (BC), Cook (BC).