The one-run hex is history.
Greenup County had been 0-5 in games decided by one run until Thursday, but the Musketeers’ 2-1 victory over Ashland didn’t lack late-inning drama.
The Musketeers loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, just after Ashland’s Cam Fritz and Casey Clark had tag-teamed to tie the game at 1-1.
With one out, Greenup County coach Greg Logan signaled for a squeeze bunt to batter Chase Clary. On a 3-1 count, Clary executed, sending a roller just a few feet inside the first-base line to a charging Drew O’Bryan. O’Bryan couldn’t handle the ball, and pinch-runner Zach Hayden scooted across the plate as the game-winning score.
“I was glad to finally pull out a win,” said senior Korey Morris, who had two of Greenup County’s five hits, including a hard-hit single in the seventh. “I just didn’t want to lose that game. I was sick of losing by one run.”
Ashland senior Evan Cox was efficient as can be on the mound. The right-hander walked no one and threw just 79 total pitches. The count reached three balls on only two Musketeer hitters.
“I thought the pitcher (Cox) did a very good job,” Logan said. “He’s a quality pitcher. Then he dips down from three-quarters (angle) and that curveball was good. We had our work cut out.”
Greenup County first got on the board with two seeing-eye singles in the third inning. Morris, who sustained a cut above his left eye when he fouled a pitch off his face in the fifth, sent a base hit into right field in the third frame. He later scored on a bouncer into left field off the bat of freshman Tristan Downing.
The Musketeers sandwiched just one hit in between the third and seventh innings, though, allowing Ashland to stay within striking distance.
Greenup County’s pitchers nearly spun their second shutout of the season. One strike away from doing just that, Hayden tried to sneak a curveball by Ashland senior Cam Fritz. Fritz waited and uncorked a line-drive single into right field to bring home Casey Clark and knot the game at 1-1.
Clark stole second and third bases to set up the run. The center fielder also racked up two of Ashland’s seven hits and made a pair of fine running catches in the outfield.
“Casey’s been doing this all year for us,” said Ashland coach Jeff Wilcox. “Just getting on base however (he can). Cam’s been battling himself. He just went with the pitch and got it down the right-field line. It was a great at-bat.”
Cody Conley followed Fritz with a single, but Downing left the two stranded by inducing an inning-ending popout.
Downing was the fourth pitcher Greenup County used. Sophomore starter Charles Frazier went four innings before giving way to senior reliever Jesse Hall. Both Hayden and Downing put in work in the seventh.
Ashland left 11 Tomcats on base, frustrating Wilcox.
“We’ve got to have better quality at-bats,” Wilcox said. “We have a bad at-bat, then it reflects on our fielding. I saw that tonight, and I don’t like that about our team.”
Wilcox said there’s still more to be desired from his team that consists of 10 seniors. The Tomcats also fell short of Rowan County by a run on Tuesday.
“They let things bother them. Where’s that experience?” Wilcox said. “That experience is supposed to pay off and it’s not paying dividends right now. That’s what disappoints me.”
Ashland committed four errors in the bottom of the seventh.
The Musketeers have now taken three of the last four meetings between the teams. The Tomcats won the 16th Region championship matchup last May.
ASHLAND 000 000 1 — 1 7 5
GREENUP CO. 001 000 1 — 2 5 2
Cox and Fritz; Frazier, Hall (5), Hayden (7), Downing (7) and Coldiron. W—Downing. L—Cox.