After three straight losses, East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer was looking for a way to build confidence. Getting a regular season sweep of the 16th Region champs sure helps.
Behind a strong start by Jordan Walburn, East Carter defeated Ashland 4-3 on Thursday at East Carter High School.
The Raiders were playing in their first game in six days. Shearer said after taking three tough losses, his team got right back to work during the long layoff.
“We had a tough week last week and these days off have helped us,” Shearer said. “We got back to basics. We did some tee work, some soft toss and we’re getting comfortable at the plate again. Last week we weren’t very comfortable.”
After building a 4-1 lead over the Tomcats heading into the seventh, the Raiders found themselves in an uncomfortable position on the field.
When a Logan Salow single cut the lead to 4-2, Walburn was pulled after the freshman threw 101 pitches.
Before the final frame, Walburn had the Tomcats’ number after allowing just three hits in the first six innings. As much as it hurt him, Shearer had to make a move.
“It was tough for me to take him out, but he’s a young arm,” Shearer said. “He’s got great composure and he understands how to pitch. He hits spots really well and every game he’s pitched in he’s given us a chance to win.
“He’s a freshman but he’s well ahead of his years in understanding how to pitch.”
East Carter was hoping to have Cole Boggs close it out after Walburn had the Tomcats down to their final out.
With two runners already on, Boggs walked Jared Slone to load the bases. Boggs continued to be wild, throwing back-to-back balls to Cade O’Bryan.
That was enough for Shearer, who then brought in ace Conner Staton to finish it out. After walking O’Bryan, Staton struck Ashland cleanup hitter Aaron Elam out looking.
“He’s a competitive kid,” Shearer said of Staton. “To come in and get that strikeout for us, that was huge.”
Ashland struggled to get runners in scoring position all game — only three reached second or third throughout the first six innings.
Tomcats coach Jeff Wilcox said he prefers having a guy like Elam at the plate in the final inning with the tying run on second.
“I told Aaron I’d take him there a hundred more times in that same situation,” Wilcox said. “He’s such a good hitter and I wouldn’t want it any other way. He didn’t feel like it was a good pitch to hit. Give (Staton) credit. He came in and made a super pitch.”
Ashland had won 10 of its last 11 games. In its last loss (Greenup County, May 3), the Tomcats committed eight errors. In Thursday’s loss the number was five, and each one helped plate East Carter runs.
In the third with two outs, an error kept the inning going which allowed East Carter’s Jesse James to score on a wild pitch. In the fourth, two throwing errors resulted in another run. In the fifth, East Carter capitalized on two errors, a bases-loaded walk by Cody McDavid, and a sacrifice RBI by Jacob Coleman as it increased the lead to 4-1.
After 13 errors in the past two losses, Wilcox said there is a chance of some upcoming defensive moves.
“It’s just guys playing different positions from last year and they don’t feel comfortable,” Wilcox said. “We’re moving kids around trying to make them comfortable, and I’m still trying to make moves. I’ll make moves going right into (the 64th District Tournament).”
The good thing for Ashland (17-9) is that after the Greenup County loss, the Tomcats turned around and defeated Wheelersburg, a defending state champion in Ohio.
Today and Saturday, the Tomcats travel to Prestonsburg to participate in the King of the Mountain tournament. Opponents will include 14th Region leader Letcher County Central and 13th Region leader Harlan County.
“Our pitching has been super all year long,” Wilcox said. “Our defense needs to get a lot better. It needs to get consistent. We didn’t win nine games (straight) by kicking the ball around. We played nine games with solid defense.”
East Carter (14-14) finishes up its season with games against Belfry, Fleming County, Lawrence County and Boyd County.
ASHLAND 010 000 2 — 3 6 5
E. CARTER 001 120 X — 4 9 0
Cox, O’Bryan (5) and Fritz. Walburn, Boggs (7), Staton (7) and Wells. W — Walburn, L — Cox. S — Staton. 2B — McDavid (E).