In the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder, the main character is haunted by memories of terrifying instances that occurred in his life before and during the Vietnam War.
Some of Ashland’s hitters may suffer from flashbacks of Wednesday night’s version of Jacob Barnwell, a monster on the mound who gave no ground to the Tomcats.
The junior mixed a slew of smoking fastballs and knee-buckling breaking balls as he concocted a four-inning, 11-strikeout relief effort in Boyd County’s 6-2 victory over Ashland in nine innings at Alumni Field.
Barnwell experienced his own personal blast from the past as the game entered extra frames. As a sophomore, the right-hander gave up the game-winning run in last season’s 12-inning marathon at Ashland.
“I try to block that stuff out, but I was actually thinking about it the entire time,” Barnwell admitted. “I was like, I’m not letting it happen again.”
Barnwell limited Ashland to just one hit, an Evan Cox single, over the final four innings to pick up the win. Cox also laced a liner right back at Barnwell, one that he quickly reacted to and gloved.
Ashland relief pitcher Pete Mullins did his job, too, though, as the game stayed deadlocked at 2-2 from the sixth until the ninth.
Two Lions reached on Mullins to begin the ninth. Braden Wyatt got to second on a throwing error by the third baseman before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Smith. Mullins tried to nail Tanner Bryan, who was running for Wyatt, but the throw to third was too late.
“That bunt where we went to third, I thought that hurt us,” said Ashland coach Jeff Wilcox.
Robert Griffith relieved Mullins with two on and no one out in the ninth. He struck out Ethan Hicks, but walked Barnwell to bring up Dylan Grimm with the bases loaded. Grimm drew a walk on a full count to bring in the go-ahead run. It was his third RBI of the night.
“That was a tough at-bat for Dylan,” said Boyd County acting head coach Gavin Ramsey. “He took a real close one (inside).”
Ramsey, normally the junior varsity head coach, stepped in for brother Brandon, who was ejected during the Lions’ win over Scott on Saturday in Covington. He, along with two assistants, are suspended for two more games.
After a wild pitch made it 4-2, Brock Damron clobbered a 3-2 pitch, sending it down the third-base line for a two-run double to extend the lead to 6-2.
“He’s been hitting the ball so well all year,” Barnwell said of Damron. “He just seems to come through whenever we need him all the time.”
Barnwell essentially recorded four outs in the ninth. One of his three strikeouts in the frame resulted in a passed ball, which allowed Jared Slone to reach first.
“Unbelievable,” said Ramsey of Barnwell, who has verbally committed to Ohio State University as a catcher. “He was just dealing tonight. That’s probably the best I’ve ever seen him throw.”
Grimm started the game on the mound for the Lions. He gave up two runs in five innings. Slone worked the first four for Ashland.
Ashland senior Aaron Elam accounted for both RBI hits for the Tomcats. The left-handed batter sent a run-scoring double down the left-field line in the third inning to knot the score at 1-1. He pounded an RBI single into center field in the fifth to lock things up at 2-2.
Cox and Elam combined for four of Ashland’s seven hits.
“They’re seeing the ball really well,” Wilcox said. “They’re getting out in front of it, and they’re not just poking it, they’re hitting it. We’ve just got to get some other guys doing that, and we will.”
Smith, the Lions’ leadoff hitter, scored three runs and pilfered a pair of bases.
Barnwell drew three of Boyd County’s seven walks. The Lions also had two batters plunked by pitches.
After the game, Gavin Ramsey joked that if Boyd County (10-9) beats Fleming County on Thursday and Montgomery County on Friday, the 17-year assistant would ride off into the sunset.
“I told the kids, ‘if we go 3-0, I’m retiring,’” Ramsey said. “That’d be a perfect record in the KHSAA, and I’d walk away.”
Ashland (7-5) and Boyd County clash in another 64th District battle on Tuesday in Cannonsburg.
Before Wednesday, the last seven matchups were each decided by two or fewer runs.
Wilcox expects another classic on Tuesday, referring to Wednesday’s game as reason.
“It was just another great game with two rivals that go after each other,” Wilcox said. “We’ll meet up again next Tuesday, and it’ll probably be the same thing.”
BOYD CO. 100 010 004 — 6 5 1
ASHLAND 001 010 000 — 2 7 3
Grimm, Barnwell (6) and Barnwell, Wyatt (6); Slone, Mullins (5), Griffith (9) and Fritz. W—Barnwell. L—Mullins. 2B—Elam (A), Damron (B).
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.