LICKING RIVER Carson Wireman proved to be just too much for Boyd County.
Greenup County’s senior pitcher had the Midas touch in Sunday’s final game of the 16th Region baseball tournament at the Joe Stacy Recreation Complex. Wireman struck out 14, did not walk a batter, and held the defending champions to just six hits and one earned run in securing a 7-3 victory.
Simply put, he was golden.
“Just about everything was working tonight,” Wireman said. “I kept them off guard. They didn’t really know what was coming, But, I stayed the course, (coach) Steve (Logan) was calling great pitches, and I basically hit my spots and we just came out with a win. It was a big win.”
Even the Lions’ coach Frank Conley knew that a lot of things would have to fall in place to defeat the Greenup County ace.
“I thought we had a pretty good approach against him to be honest with you,” Conley said. “If you’d told you going in to it that we’d score three runs against him, I would’ve been I happy with that. I was thinking we’d score three to five against him, but when you give up seven, you’re probably not going to get that guy. We just had a good approach at the plate. We got beat on some fastballs. We got down in the count, but early on we had some good swings. It’s just tough. He makes it tough on you.”
Boyd County (22-8-2) looked like it was going to be the team to beat in the first inning. The Lions’ left-handed starter, J.K. McKnight, struck out the first two Musketeer batters and then induced Wireman into a ground out. The Lions went to work at the plate, picking up a pair of singles from Peyton Jackson and Alex Martin, and then benefitted from a Wireman wild pitch to score the game’s first run.
However, Greenup County answered with two runs of its own in the top of the second. Hunter Clevenger led off with a walk and Cohen Underwood singled to right-center field to drive Clevenger home. After a Jack Gullett sacrifice bunt moved Underwood up a base, the junior right fielder came home on a wild pitch.
Behind a trio of singles, the Musketeers extended their lead to 3-1 in the top of the third. Kasey Gammon was the first of seven batters to the plate for the Green and Gold. The freshman shortstop singled to left field. Cade Hunt added a single and Wireman reached on a fielder’s choice. Clevenger drove Gammons home with his single to left field.
The back-and-forth affair continued in the bottom of the frame as Boyd County was able to tie the score at 3-3 after McKnight reached on an error and Jackson crushed a shot over the left-field fence.
“We found out real quick when Peyton hit that ball to 375 (feet) out there in left-center that the curve ball wasn’t going to be one that we called very often,” Greenup County coach Steven Logan said with a chuckle.
However, from that point, it was all Wireman.
The Lions only reached base three more times over the final four innings.
“My change-up was really getting to them. I was slowing that down,” he said. “The curve ball, it wasn’t working the best tonight, but I had my fastball in my back pocket and I was painting the corners. So, the change-up and fastball were working really good.”
Wireman was able to contribute on offense as well.
In another seven-batter inning, three Musketeers reached base before Wireman came up with two outs in the fourth. Bradley Adkins beat out an infield single and Gammons drew a walk. Then Matt Boggs’ single to right field plated Adkins.
That set the scene for another heroic performance from the senior pitcher as Wireman blasted a shot deep to center field over Jacob Vanover’s head to clear the bases with a triple.
Yet, when it came to praising the team’s offense. Wireman did not even mention his triple.
“(My teammates) stayed the course, too. We had some big hits,” he said. “These guys come out every day and want to be better every day and it really showed tonight. It was pretty amazing the way they had my back tonight.”
The Musketeers added an insurance run in the sixth. Gavin Roy led off with a single, Boggs’ sacrifice moved Roy’s pinch runner, Hunter Holbrook, up a base, before Hunt drove him home with a single to center field.
Boyd County put together a threat with two outs in the bottom of the sixth after Brogan Jones and Vanover hit back-to-back singles, but Wireman squashed any thoughts of a comeback with his 12th strikeout of the night.
Greenup County made one last surge after a two-out double by Gullett, but the Musketeers were unable to add to their scoring.
Wireman finished off the game with a pair of strikeouts to send the Musketeers to their first regional semifinal since winning it all in 2018.
Logan directly credited Wireman when asked about the victory.
“Well, I think you look no further than No. 3 on the mound and what a gutsy performance that was. Obviously, he’s been our go-to- guy since his eighth-grade year. He led the team in innings with 56 innings as an eighth-grader,” he said. “A guy like that when he spots up, like throwing darts, (he) can locate in, out, up, down with the fastball. He was in total control. His change-up was on. We spotted that up. We used that a few times in the bottom of the sixth inning to get a quick out. We were looking at 34 pitches to finish the game. I thought it was very key that he had a good sixth inning through the heart of their order. That was big for us.”
Wireman surpassed a milestone with his fourth inning K on the at bat immediately after Jackson’s home run..
“Coming in to this game, I didn’t want to tell him, but he was five strikeouts away from 300 for his career, and man what a bulldog, what a warrior, what a gutsy performance,” Logan said.
Greenup County finished with 10 hits. Every Musketeer batter collected at least one, with Hunt as the lone player with two. Wireman had a team-high two RBI, with Boggs, Hunt, Clevenger and Underwood with one apiece.
“I thought we put a little bit of pressure on them offensively on the bases as well as bunting,” Logan said. “But, make no mistake about it, JK McKnight is a great pitcher and Peyton Jackson, he hit that ball a long way, and that’s a good ball club over there and we were very fortunate to get out of here with a W.”
Boyd County tallied six hits. Jackson had two, with McKnight, Martin, Jones and Vanover recording one apiece.
McKnight suffered the loss. He pitched three and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits. He struck out four and walked two. Cayden Butler pitched one and one-third innings in relief, retiring all four batters he faced, one by strikeout.
Vanover finished the game. He threw two complete innings and yielded one run on three hits. He also had one strikeout and no walks.
GREENUP CO. 021 301 0 — 7 10 1
BOYD CO. 102 000 0 — 3 6 0
WP: Carson Wireman (10-2), LP: JK McKnight (4-2).
East Carter 12
Fleming County 2
East Carter brought out the bats in the first inning of Sunday’s 16th Region Baseball Tournament contest against Fleming County at the Joe Stacy Recreation Complex and never looked back.
The Raiders sent 11 players to the plate in the bottom of the first and scored five times en route to a 12-2 five-inning victory.
That early onslaught was what East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer asked of his team before the game.
“I said, we need to score four or five early here to get them down and get the energy out of their dugout and I felt like we did that with our five-run first (inning),” he said. “After that, we kept adding one here, two there and then we had a big fourth inning. So scoring early and then scoring often, that’s always a big key for us.”
Tate Scott began the offensive surge with a double and later scored on an Andrew Tomolonis single. Ty Scott followed with a bloop single just inside the right-field line to give the Raiders a 2-0 advantage. After three walks, two fielder’s choices and a hit batsman, the Blue and Red had opened up a 5-0 gap.
“We came out in the first started it off and kept our high energy the entire game with everybody being on their toes. Nobody had any down thoughts, we just came out with energy,” Tomolonis said. “We knew if we could get a good lead we could pull (starting pitcher) Harley (Bowen) and save him for later on in the tournament.”
Cropper knew it would be an uphill climb for his club.
“Coming in, they’re a great team. You look at their record, they’re 28-5 (sic). They have a lot of guys top to bottom that can hit. We knew it was going to be a stiff battle,” Fleming County interim head coach Travis Cropper said. “Nate (Ruark) came out, didn’t have his best stuff today, and never really could find his curve ball and his change-up. So, it makes it really tough when you’ve got a good offensive team and you’re struggling to find you stuff.”
Cropper stuck with his starter, even through the early struggles.
“In that first inning, they hung five on us and really on a lot of nickel-dimer stuff. They never really squared the ball up there in the first inning. (They) hit some little bloops here and there, and I tried to encourage Nate to keep battling,” he continued. “(I said),’These guys aren’t hitting you hard, so keep going and you’ll finally get at some guys and you’ll get some guys out’. And after that first inning, in the second and third he settled in and I think he gave up one in the second inning and then in the third had a clean inning.”
East Carter was able to add another run in the second off a Blake Hall sacrifice fly that drove in Ty Scott.
Fleming County (12-21) sent at least four batters to the plate in each inning, but they finally got on the board in the top of the third after Preston Cropper and Dylan Doyle both singled, with Doyle’s shot driving in Cropper.
After Doyle’s single, the Raiders made a change on the mound to Tate Scott, who came in and finished the game by pitching two and one-third innings.
“We started Harley Bowen. He’s one of our better arms. He had 49 pitches. (We) took him out on pitch count just basically to have him for Tuesday, if we need him, if we happen to advance that far. So, we used pitch-count there,” Shearer said. “Then Tate Scott came in. He’s probably our four or five guy, but he threw strikes, kept them at bay there. They had a couple of runs off him, but overall with our pitching they attacked the strike zone and did a good job.”
The Panthers got on the board again in the fourth. Nate Ruark led off with a single and his courtesy runner, Chase Grannis, scored on a Zack Fryman sacrifice bunt.
East Carter broke the contest open in the fourth with another five runs coming off four hits and three walks. Evan Goodman led off with a free pass and Tomolonis followed with a double to left-center field that scored Goodman. Jaxon Barker’s two-run double with the bases loaded was the back-breaker, with another run scoring off an error on the play to empty the bases. Bowen then drove in Barker to push the margin to 11-2. Gavin Sexton added a single and Tate Scott walked, but Panther reliever Lester Doyle got a strikeout to end the inning.
In the top fo the fifth, Fleming County loaded the bases after singles by Brady Faris, Austin James and Tyler Miller, but the threat was quashed when Tomolonis scooped up a ground ball and threw it home for a force out to end the inning.
“Our guys, I thought we hit it pretty well. At one point, we were out-hitting them late in the game. We hit a lot of balls hard, which is an improvement for us. At the start of the season, we sere striking out a lot, but I think our guys got better,” coach Cropper said. “I don’t now how many hits we ended up with, but we hit some balls hard. And one inning, we had the bases loaded but we couldn’t push anything across, and when you can’t get any momentum going your way, it kind of hurts you.”
The Panthers were hampered by miscues in the bottom of the fifth and the game drew to a close by the 10-run rule after an infield single by Sexton that plated Ty Scott.
Tate Scott got the win after giving up one run on five hits. He struck out two and had one intentional walk.
Bowen pitched two and two-thirds, allowing one run on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk.
Ruark got the loss. He pitched three-plus inning, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on hit hits. He walked five and did not have a strikeout. Lester Doyle finished the game, throwing one and two-thirds innings. He allowed four hits (three earned) on three hits, with five walks and a strikeout.
Both teams finished with eight hits. Tomolonis and Sexton led the way with two apiece. Tate Scott, Ty Scott, Barker and Levi Hutchinson had the others. Tomolonis, Sexton and Barker each paced the squad with two RBI; while Ty Scott, Tate Scott, Hall and Bowen recorded one apiece.
“I thought we ran the bases well, but I also thought we got some big hits. We had a bases-clearing double from Jaxon Barker,” Shearer said. “We got more patient as the game went on and took what they gave us. They were a little wild with their pitches and we went deep in counts and took that. Then when we got pitches to hit we hit them. I liked our approach at the plate.”
Andrew Tomolonis credited both fielding and hitting as keys to the win.
“We fielded very well. We only came up with one error,” he said.
“I just figured I’d do my part at third base, get on base and get as many RBIs as I could to help out our pitching,” he added. “Everybody on the team put the ball in play and got big hits when we needed to.”
Faris and James each had two hits to pace the Panthers. Cropper, Dylan Doyle, Miller and Ruark each added one. Dylan Doyle and Fryman got the team’s RBI.
A handful of Panthers are graduating this spring, which means Fleming County will lose some key players.
“We’ve got our everyday shortstop (Hoss Morgan), our everyday catcher (Zack Fryman) and our everyday first baseman (Tyler Miller). So, those guys are going to be holes to fill,” coach Cropper said. “Our shortstop is kind of our leader in the dugout. He’s an emotional guy. He kept us going. Chase (Grannis), he didn’t play a lot, but he showed up. He worked hard. He’s just a great teammate. He came in and did some pinch running and courtesy running for us, and just a great kid to have around. So, were’e definitely going to miss those guys.”
However, the team is not done just because it’s season is over.
“I told the guys, ‘I’m going to be at the field tomorrow if you’d like to get some work in.’ Se, we’re ready to turn the page and get it going again.”
East Carter will return on Monday to play in the semifinals against Greenup County. That game will start at 8 p.m.
FLEMING CO. 001 10 _-- 2 8 5
E. CARTER 510 51 -- 12 8 1
WP: Tate Scott (4-0), LP: Nate Ruark (4-7)