LOUISA Lawrence County coach Travis Feltner is a firm believer that playing small ball can help produce big results for his club.
The Bulldogs sprayed the ball all over the field on Saturday, collecting 31 hits and 28 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Ashland on their home field.
The Lawrence County skipper will use everything in the team’s offensive repertoire to put pressure on the defense and produce action on the base paths. The Bulldogs moved several runners along with a bunt and scored three times on the squeeze play.
If a runner makes it on base, he is seldom standing still.
“I’m big on that,” Feltner said. “You can call it whatever you want to call it but I’m big on forcing the issue and making high school players make plays, whether that’s in the running game or whatever. Our guys know that. I will bunt with our 3-hitter and 4-hitter. We will steal with some guys who don’t normally do that.”
“Sometimes it doesn’t work out,” he added, “but most of the time, if the guys are into what you are doing, we can create a lot of havoc with that.”
Lawrence County’s win total keeps moving in the right direction. The Bulldogs have won 12 straight games, and 16 of their last 17, after defeating the Tomcats, 17-8, and 11-1 in six innings. Feltner sees his team getting their swing back after a week-long break in the schedule.
“It’s true that hitting is contagious,” Feltner said. “We played at Russell Thursday night and Estill County at Montgomery County on Friday night. Before that, we were eight straight days without a game and seeing live pitching. We struggled the last two nights offensively. I feel we have the capability of hitting the ball up and down the lineup. It started showing today and I hope we can pick back up where we left off.”
Will Lafferty matched his stellar performance on the mound in Game 2 to his teammate, Jake Derifield, who entered the opening contest in relief. Both gave up just one run to pick up pitching victories.
“We were very unfamiliar with Ashland,” Feltner said. “Last time we played them two years ago, they had 10 seniors. They have a lot of new faces. We started a freshman in the first game, and he struggled, but Talon (Pollock) has pitched very well for us this year but hasn’t pitched in four weeks.
“Jake did a great job coming in and Will did a great job, too, on the mound.”
Lawrence County (18-2) supplied Lafferty with an early lead after scoring six runs on eight hits in the second inning of Game 2. Bryce Blevins knocked in the first run with an RBI single after Jacob Fletcher lead off the stanza with a double. Derifield followed with a run-scoring single.
Abner Collinsworth was 4 for 4 at the plate and drove home two more tallies with the first of his three doubles. Fletcher batted again in the frame and plated one more with a hit.
Ashland stopped the bleeding and stayed within striking distance. With the Bulldogs offensive output, the Tomcats kept battling but had trouble mounting a charge against Lafferty.
“The big key (in the second game) was that we were throwing strikes,” Ashland coach Evan Yongue said. “They were hitting the ball, but we were making plays when we had to. We showed some fight, and we showed some toughness. I liked seeing that after the first game.”
Blue Fletcher opened the fourth with a single and stole second base. Lafferty was next up and bunted to the third base side. The throw went to first, but Fletcher never stopped running and slid home safely. Collinsworth and Brayden Maynard produced consecutive doubles that allowed the Bulldogs to dent the scoreboard again.
Blue and Jacob Fletcher lined a pair of timely hits in the sixth inning to seal the win.
Feltner liked his team’s intensity to start the second contest after producing at the plate in the prior game.
“You play one game and then you wipe the slate clean,” Feltner said. “We scored a ton of runs in the first game and you have to keep you guys on edge. The score is 0-0 when you start Game 2.”
Ashland (8-11) finished a strong stretch of games this week, playing six games in five days. The experience of tough competition will help the team continue to grow.
“It’s been tough, especially on our pitchers,” Yongue said. “We’ve thrown just about the entire staff this week. We are starting to hit the ball much better. We have some things to clean up to make it a full team effort, but we are getting there.”
Eli Miller’s RBI hit plated the Tomcats' only run in the sixth inning.
Lawrence County 17, Ashland 8
After falling behind 7-1, Lawrence County unleashed its own offensive surge over the next four innings to take the opening game.
Every Bulldog in the batting order scored at least once. Lawrence County plated four runs on just one hit in the third frame as Ashland pitching had trouble finding the strike zone during the contest.
A trio of free passes loaded the bases. After a balk sent a run home, Mason Preston cleared the bases with a two-bagger that found fair territory down the third base line.
Lawrence County handled the ball to Pollock to start. Ryan Atkins tallied four RBIs through the first two innings. He parked a two-run dinger over the left-field fence in his first at-bat. He sent two more home with a double in the second stanza. Asher Stevens repeated the feat a few batters later.
Derifield supplied a calming force in relief, and he stymied the Tomcats offense when he entered in the third inning. Ashland accumulated just three hits and one run the rest of the way. Derifield retired the final eight batters he faced.
The Lawrence County bats had only started to ignite as the Bulldogs’ bats fueled three more big inning The first five batters reached for the Bulldogs in the fourth inning. Maynard and Jacob Fletcher supplied RBI singles.
Lawrence County put the game out of reach with seven runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth, highlighted by Ethan Whitt’s towering home run to left field.
“They are a very solid team,” Yongue said of the Dawgs. “They are well-coached. If you give them an opportunity, they are going to take it. That’s what we did today. When we got up, we have to keep pressing forward and not let up.”
Blue Fletcher, Lafferty and Whitt each scored three times in Game 1. Blue Fletcher was a combined 6 for 8 in the two games. Derifield was 4 for 6 and Maynard was 4 for 8.
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ASHLAND 250 010 0 — 8 8 5
LAWRENCE CO. 104 372 X — 17 13 1
Peppers, Miller (3), Johnson (4) and Flowers. Pollock, Derifield (3) and B. Fletcher. W—Derifield. L—Johnson. 2B—Miller (A), Atkins (A), Stevens (A), Whitt (LC), Preston (LC), B. Fletcher (LC). HR—Atkins (A), Whitt (LC).
ASHLAND 000 001 — 1 4 1
LAWRENCE CO. 060 203 — 11 18 2
Greene, Brewer (5) and Mullins. Lafferty, J Fletcher (6) and Preston. W—Lafferty. L—Greene. 2B—Maynard (LC), J. Fletcher (LC), Collinsworth 3 (LC).