LICKING RIVER As soon as the first pitch was thrown in the 16th Region Tournament final on Tuesday, the Rams were firing on all cylinders.
Raceland charged full steam ahead to become the region champions when they defeated East Carter 10-3, at the Joe Stacy Memorial Complex in Morgan County.
“This is exciting,” Raceland coach Marty Mills said. “We were beat up and banged up all year. We had three different lineups today before getting the kids stretched out. It’s a lot of work but this is really exhilarating.”
This is the second time in three seasons that the Rams have captured the region crown. They won the 2021 title over Ashland.
For the Raiders, the loss brings to an end the best run the club has had in the region tournament in quite some time.
It’s the fifth straight season the team has made the tournament and the first time in that run that they have made it to the finals.
“They competed day in and day out,” East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer said of his team’s efforts this year. “This junior and senior class is hard to match when it comes to competitiveness and grit. They brought that every single day. It’s a long season so to go 28-6 is a great year. This is a tough game to get to. Things have to fall your way but it didn’t fall our way tonight.”
Raceland pitcher Brayden Webb threw 111 pitches in the game, just nine shy of the KHSAA limit, and went wire-to-wire for the Rams. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“He has really good command,” Mills said. “He didn’t have one of his pitches most of tonight, but he found it late. He’s had that command all year. That’s who he is. East Carter, that’s as good a hitting team as you’re going to find. To keep those guys at bay speaks volumes because that’s a quality team that’s quality coached.”
Webb was grateful for the recognition but gave credit to his teammates for always having his back.
“It feels great,” Webb said. “I have to give thanks to my teammates because without them none of this would be possible. It was hard at the beginning of the season with my shoulder injury, but coaches working with me and my teammates helping every time I got down just really built my confidence. With this team, I really feel like I can do anything.”
The Rams got on the board early with an error off the bat of Eli Lynd that sent Parker Fannin home in the bottom of the first.
East Carter tried to respond in the top of the second. The Raiders got Ty Scott on base with a hit and then to third on a throwing error with no outs.
Raceland was able to hold up against the threat and tagged Scott out as he tried to advance home on the next at-bat.
“They stayed focused,” Mills said. “I know East Carter was focused too, but the thing is we got a couple of balls in play which gets the momentum going your way. You score early and there’s a looseness to you.”
The Rams added two more runs in the bottom of the second.
The first came via a fielder’s choice bunt from Brayden Webb.
Webb drove in a run in and made it over to second base due to an error on the throw to first.
Webb crossed the plate two batters later following a Connor Thacker single.
After a 1-2-3 inning at the top of the third, the Rams poured on more damage.
Kadin Shore got the inning going in the leadoff spot with a standup double. Kerns eventually sacrificed to get Shore home.
Raceland didn’t let the two outs on the board deter them from keeping their foot on the pedal.
“We’re always trying to manufacture runs,” Mills said. “But at the same time, you’re trying to get a big inning so to speak. You have to find some separation with teams like East Carter.”
Another double, this one from Connor Hughes, drove in a pair of runs, and a hit from Fannin drove in another.
Fannin was tagged out after rounding second, but the end result of the frame had the Rams up 7-0.
Firmly in a hole, East Carter started to dig a little in the top of the fourth inning.
A double from Ty Scott finally got things going for the Raiders.
Ty Scott eventually got home off an errant throw to third base.
East Carter was unable to gain back any further ground, but finally ended the shutout.
The Raiders built on that momentum in the bottom of the fourth and turned Raceland away in the Rams’ first scoreless inning of the contest.
East Carter got another run back in the top of the fifth due to another fielding error from Raceland.
The Rams quickly erased all of the ground made up by the Raiders and took their biggest lead of the game with a three-run fifth frame.
The first of those runs was scored after a fielder’s choice from Fannin.
The other two came after a hit from Clay Coldiron.
Coldiron batted one run in outright, while an error sent the second home.
Trailing 10-2, East Carter managed to load the bases in the top of the sixth with just one out but came away with just one run to show for it.
That run came via a fielder’s choice by Gavin Sexton, the first earned run of the game for the Raiders.
The score remained at 10-3 to the top of the seventh inning.
Despite the deficit, East Carter kept swinging.
“That’s the mark of this team,” Shearer said of his team’s fight. “They step up and are easy to coach because they’re self-motivators and self-starters. They’re never going to lay down. They’re down 10 or 11 runs and they showed fighting the end and put some pressure on Raceland. I can’t say enough about those guys.”
East Carter got four batters to reach in the final frame and a hit from Andrew Tomolonis scored a run for the Raiders, but the hill was too steep to climb.
Raceland got the final out thanks to a diving snag from Connor Thacker in left field to secure the region title.
“I told these juniors coming back, which is a big class, it’s been a progression for us,” Shearer said. “Last couple of years we made the semifinals, this year the finals, so I think we’re knocking on the door and we’re ready to take the next step. That takes work in the off-season, so we’ll take the rest of the week off and then hopefully they’ll get to work and start getting better.”
Raceland will move on to the state tournament to meet the 11th Region champion. Lexington Catholic and Great Crossing were competing in the final at Madison Central.
“We have a motto, ‘Just be boring,’” Mills said. “That’s kind of where we’re at and it’s the approach we’ll have next week too. We played in it in 2021. This year there’s no sectional to it so they’ll get to experience the whole tournament feel.“
The Rams’ state tournament game is scheduled for June 1 at 8:30 at Counter Clocks Field in Lexington.
E. CARTER 000 111 1 — 4 7 4
RACELAND 124 030 X — 10 10 4
Skaggs, Scott (3) and Barker; Webb and Lynd. W — Webb. L — Skaggs. 2B — Shore (R), Hughes (R), Ty Scott (EC), Lynd (R), Kerns (R).