Evan Yongue hopes to help form another stellar one-two pitching combination at Ashland.
Last year, Sam Hunter and Logan Salow led the Tomcats to the 16th Region championship and an Elite Eight finish at the State Tournament. Hunter signed with Marshall University.
Yongue, aiming to become Robin to Salow’s Batman, got the start in the Tomcats’ home opener Saturday and made a strong early case.
The senior right-hander rang up 10 strikeouts in five innings as Ashland beat Fleming County 5-1 in Central Park.
“For Evan to throw as well as he did, and the way we played as a team, I thought it was a great opening day for us,” Tomcats coach Jeff Wilcox said.
Yongue, 5-2 last year with a 3.22 earned run average, has signed to play football at Mount St. Joseph, a Division III college outside Cincinnati, but he put in extra work on his pitching during the winter.
“We’ve only been outside four or five times since Feb. 15 because of the weather, but Evan has been looking sharp in the gym,” Wilcox said. “It was a great first outing.”
Yongue showed good velocity on his fastball and caught four batters looking at called third strikes in the first three innings.
“I was real surprised with my velocity,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be throwing so hard that early. All my pitches were working well. I added a changeup this year and got a strikeout with it. My arm’s a little sore from where it was my first outing.”
Ashland staked him to a 3-0 lead in the second inning, with Austin Kelley and Salow supplying RBI singles.
Yongue allowed five hits and only one walk. He fanned the first two batters in the fifth before yielding a double to Bryson McKee and Aaron James’ run-scoring single. Yongue ended the inning with another K, and Salow came on to pitch two scoreless innings with five strikeouts.
“I thought (Yongue) threw really well,” Fleming County coach Blake Price said. “Everybody knew about Logan.”
Offensively, Ashland outfielders Jake Hall and Kelley accounted for five of the team’s seven hits. Hall, batting sixth, went 3-for-3 and scored twice.
“We’re glad to have Jake back (healthy),” Wilcox said. “Last year, he had a sore elbow that limited him. He’s been doing well.”
Kelley, a junior making his first varsity start, hit run-scoring singles in each of his first two trips.
“He almost had two more (RBIs),” Wilcox said of Kelley’s hard groundball to shortstop in the fifth inning with two runners in scoring position. “It was a great start.”
Evan Cox added a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning to bring home the Tomcats’ final run.
For young Fleming County (1-4), the game continued a tough early schedule. The Panthers’ other losses came against Clark County, Lawrence County and East Carter.
“We’ve played some good competition, no doubt,” Price said. “Ashland’s a good squad. Our region as a whole is solid. With only two seniors, we’re working to get better.”
Desmond McAdams, the Panthers’ top pitcher, worked only two innings against the Tomcats and was lifted after the second.
“He has a little stiffness in his arm,” Price said. “He pitched against Lawrence County (on Wednesday).”
James, a sophomore outfielder, singled all three times to the plate for the Panthers.
Ashland moved its first several home games to Ernie Chattin Field due to the installation of a new scoreboard and metal bleachers at Alumni Field.
“It’s always good to play down here,” said Wilcox, who grew up watching good Tomcat teams in Central Park and then played for Ashland. “It brings back great memories.”
FLEMING CO. 000 010 0 — 1 6 1
ASHLAND 030 101 x — 5 7 0
McAdams, Muse (3), Humphries (6) and Saunders; Yongue, Salow (6) and Fritz. W—Yongue. L—McAdams. 2B—McKee (FC).