Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

April 12, 2014

Cox, Cats scratch out home win

Ashland tops Prestonsburg

ASHLAND — Ashland still isn’t exactly lacing the ball all over the yard, but by comparison, its six runs amounted to a veritable outburst on Friday.

Ashland beat the Blackcats 6-4 in their home opener at Alumni Field despite being outhit 9-5. But the Tomcats took advantage of Prestonsburg’s five walks, three errors and two hit batsmen.

Considering Ashland (6-4) scored four runs combined in its first two games since returning from Myrtle Beach, S.C., Tomcats coach Jeff Wilcox was content with six on Friday.

“That’s what we’ve gotta do,” Wilcox said of manufacturing runs and capitalizing on miscues. “We’ve been having trouble scoring some runs, and I was glad to see us score six runs and get a good victory.”

Senior Evan Cox was the lone Tomcat to hit the ball hard and repeatedly, going 2-for-3 with two doubles and three RBI in the nine-hole.

But Ashland racked up three runs in the bottom of the first inning, aided by two Blackcats errors, a walk, two hit-by-pitches and one wild pitch, and led from then on.

Casey Clark got the Tomcats on the board with an RBI single to center, then scored from third base on a wild pitch. Aaron Elam came home on an error on Drew O’Bryan’s grounder.

Ashland scored two more runs in the third on Cox’s two-out, two-RBI double.

All that served to back senior pitcher Robert Griffith, a transfer from Butler who pitched his first game for Ashland after battling mononucleosis early in the season.

Griffith went six innings, pitching around nine Prestonsburg hits. He issued one walk, hit one batter and struck out seven.

“We always stress one error or less, and one walk or less, and I thought it was overall a pretty good performance,” Wilcox said.

Griffith said he’s had little trouble getting into the swing of playing for the Tomcats.

“I played Post 76 (American Legion baseball) over the summer, so I got to get in with some of these guys,” he said. “And so it’s been kind of an easy transition.”

 Prestonsburg (7-5) later cut its deficit to two runs on two occasions, but Griffith induced a deep flyout from Hunter Brown, seeking his third extra-base hit of the night, to end the fifth inning and got Scott Stapleton to hit into a fielder’s choice to end the sixth.

“Just throw strikes, trust my defense,” Griffith said of his approach. “If they’re gonna hit the ball, I’ve got a solid defense behind me.”

The game was a matchup of two defending region champions. But the Blackcats are a vastly different club than last year’s 15th Region titlists — they feature 17 freshmen, according to coach Shane Simpkins.

Prestonsburg scored the first run of the night in the top of the first, but lost momentum quickly with Ashland’s three-run response.

“I thought we played a lot better than we have been,” Simpkins said, “but that’s a big inning if we get out there, especially getting one in the top, and then they come back with three and that hurts you.”

Freshman Reece Ison took the decision for the Blackcats, allowing five runs in three innings of work. Brown went 2-for-3 and doubled twice, and Aaron Foley was 2-for-2.

PRESTONSBURG    100    111    0    —    4    9    3

ASHLAND    302    010    X    —    6    5    1

Griffith, Mullins (7) and Fritz; Ison, Tucker (4) and Martin. W — Griffith. L — Ison. 2B — Brown 2 (P), Foley (P), Cox 2 (A).

ZACK KLEMME can be reached at zklemme@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.

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