LOUISVILLE Each year at the end of the season, the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association hosts separate showcase events for sophomores and juniors, which includes a variety of skill tests in front of college coaches and pro scouts. Then, there’s a game between the teams from the state’s eastern regions (9-16) and western regions (1-8). After being postponed twice because of weather and despite having to endure stifling heat, this year’s exhibition took place on Wednesday at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville.
The final scores did not favor the East teams, but for the area participants that mattered little.
Lewis County’s Sam O’Keefe was a late addition to the East’s junior squad, but he made the most of his lone plate appearance in the morning game by hitting a two-run single to right field in the fifth inning that drove in the only two runs for his team in a 5-2 defeat.
“My willingness to compete. I love to win. So, I was just trying to do with that at-bat anything I could do to help my team win,” he said, referring to what he was hoping the scouts would see. “I hit pretty well today. I had a good day at the plate.”
O’Keefe was one of one of seven players on the 28-member East Junior squad. Bath County’s Nathan Davis, Johnson Central’s Chayse Meade, Russell’s Isaac Jenkins, West Carter’s Ben Wilburn and Lawrence County’s Jackson Feltner and Tyler Maynard also participated as representatives from the 15th and 16th Regions.
“It was a great experience. I got to play with a lot of guys that I’ve never played with before but (have) a lot of talent, and then the guys around home to come and team up (with) after competing against (them) all year was really fun,” O’Keefe said.
Every player saw action at different positions in the field, although some, like Jenkins, were there only to pitch. In his lone inning on the mound, Jenkins finished the day allowing one earned run and one hit while striking out two. Unfortunately, he was saddled with the loss.
Davis was one of several who both pitched and participated on offense. As the reliever in the eighth inning, he surrendered one earned run off two hits with one strikeout. He had a little more success at the plate, drawing a walk and eventually scoring in his lone plate appearance.
Maynard and Wilburn contributed two of the East’s five hits. Maynard had a third inning single to right field, while Wilburn singled to right center field to lead off the seventh. Both finished the day 1 for 2.
Feltner and Meade had their most success in the field. Feltner, a first baseman, finished his outing 0 for 2, while Meade, a catcher, was 0 for 1.
The East rallied with five runs in the eighth (and final) inning of the afternoon’s sophomore showcase, but fell just one run short, 11-10.
Although four area athletes were invited to attend, only Lawrence County’s Jacob Fletcher did not have a conflict that prevented him from participating.
Fletcher saw time at first base and on the mound. He pitched the third inning and allowed one earned run on no hits with one strikeout. However, he also surrendered two walks and hit a batter.
Despite the statistics, Fletcher was pleased with what he was able to demonstrate to the scouts during his time on the hill.
“First off, I’d like to thank them for coming out here. It’s a big thank you to them,” he said. “One thing I think I did my best was my pitching. I’ve always enjoyed pitching. It’s my happy place. Today was probably the best my curveball has ever looked.”
Fletcher had more success at the plate. He went 0-for-1 but drew a walk, was hit by a pitch, drove in a run and also scored.
“It’s a great experience just being around a bunch of athletes. They won’t put you down for making an error. They pick you back up,” he added. “It was definitely a great experience.”
Nicholas County’s Travis Sims coached the East Juniors, while Newport Central Catholic’s Jeff Schulkens coached the East Sophomores. It was Schulkens’ final game representing the NCC Thoroughbreds. After 23 seasons leading his club, the KHSBCA Hall of Famer retired at the end of the 2019 season having won over 400 games, four regional titles and one All “A” state championship.