Johnson Central took a “Chaynse” Thursday night.
And it paid off.
Senior third baseman Chaynse Hill laid down a bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning to cap off a textbook suicide squeeze and give the homestanding Golden Eagles a thrilling 3-2 win over 57th District foe Lawrence County.
“That ball may have only traveled a few feet, but it was the biggest hit of my career,” said Hill. Bo Robbins scored the winning run after beginning the inning with a single. Robbins and Quade Ward, who reached after being hit by a pitch, moved into scoring position on a passed ball.
Johnson Central coach Shawn Hall didn’t think twice about bunting for the win.
“[Chaynse] is one of our better bunters,” he said. “He does a nice job getting the ball down.”
Lawrence County coach Travis Feltner wasn’t surprised, either.
“We threw a breaking ball low and away and they won the game,” he said. “I’m proud of our kids, but the ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
The Golden Eagles, now 20-9, won for the sixth time in seven games. They tied the game at 2-apiece in the bottom of the seventh when losing pitcher Austin Bailey walked center fielder Jordan Young with the bases loaded to score Blake Gamble. Central missed a chance to win the game when Geordan Blanton struck out with the bases juiced.
“We missed some opportunities, but we kept our composure and continued to play hard,” said Hall. “This was a big win for our kids.”
Lawrence County (18-7) jumped ahead 2-1 in the top of the seventh when first baseman Chase Covendale and right fielder Morgan Miller scored Brock Turner and Bailey on RBI singles. Covendale was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
It was a pitchers’ duel throughout much of the game, featuring Lawrence County senior Joe Wallen and Central sophomore Josh Hitchcock.
Both pitchers worked 6 2-3 innings.
“I think we both wanted our guys to finish the game, but they ran out of steam,” said Hall.
The Bulldogs still control their own destiny in district play. A win tonight at home against Central would make it a three-way tie for the top spot with Central and Paintsville, which both still have district games remaining.
“Any time we play Johnson Central, it’s a battle,” Feltner continued. “This is a game I hope we learn from and build on.”
LAWRENCE 000 000 2(0) – 2 4 5
J.CENTRAL 010 000 1(1) – 3 5 1
WP – Quade Ward (1 1/3 inns., 0r, 1h, 2k, 1bb)
LP – Austin Bailey (1 1/3 inns., 2r, 1h, 1k, 3bb, 1hbp)
Lawrence County – Brock Turner 2-1b, 1r; Austin Bailey 1r; Chase Covendale 1b, 1rbi; Morgan Miller 1b, 1rbi.
Johnson Central – Zac Slone 1b; Jordan Young 1b, 1rbi; Bo Robbins 1b, 2r; Austin Davis 1b; Chaynse Hill 1b, 1rbi; Blake Gamble 1r.