Admirals fall short against Rockcastle County in region semifinals
By JOE MATHIS
NICHOLASVILLE — With the way the top of the first started between Danville and Rockcastle County it would’ve been easy for people to think the 12th Region semifinal game would have been a high-scoring affair.
Those thoughts were quickly erased as Danville’s Ethan Wood and Rockcastle’s Javon Hastie fought for a chance to advance their respective teams to the 12th Region finals.
And it was the top of the first that cued everyone into knowing just what type of game it would be.
Three batters in, Rockcastle County loaded the bases with no outs after a hit by pitch, an infield single, and a walk.
But Wood did what he does best: strike out hitters.
Wood, one of the state’s leaders in strikeouts — he came into the game with 90 on the season — struck out the side in the top of the first to leave the bases loaded and set the wheels in motion for a pitcher’s duel.
He and Hastie battled each other pitch for pitch.
Wood would work out of a minor jam in the second inning after Rockcastle County got two on with one out. That was no problem for Wood who would strike out the next hitter, then see his catcher Cayden Shaver snap throw a pick off to first base to catch a Rocket base runner leading too far off the bag for the third out.
The two pitching masterpieces continued.
In the bottom of the third, Hastie struck out the Admiral side.
In the next half inning, Wood would do the same to the Rockets’ three hitters.
Danville continued to have trouble timing Hastie fastballs and making contact with his breaking balls until the bottom of the fourth.
Jacob Crank led off for the Ads in the bottom of the fourth with a walk, then Ethan Wood singled up the middle which moved Crank to third and Wood to second on the back end of the play when Rockcastle County forgot to cover the second base bag.
Two batters later, Preston Barnes would walk for the second time to load the bases with one out .
But unfortunately for Danville, Hastie did exactly what Wood had already done twice in the game: pitch his way out of trouble. Hastie would strike out the next two batters as Danville left the bases loaded. It was their best chance to score the entire game.
“We had really scuffled the last three or four weeks scoring runs,” said Danville head coach Paul Morse. “We came out the first, maybe, three-quarters of the way through the year and we’re averaging 10 or 11 runs a game but you’ve got to come out and execute and you can’t have days like today.”
The lack of offense didn’t seem to bother Wood, however, who would strike out two more in the fifth to up his game total to ten.
In the fifth inning Danville, again, had a chance to take the lead after Jaden Larmour singled, then his courtesy runner, Riley Lark, moved to second base after an errant throw by Hastie sailed over the first baseman’s head as he tried to double up Lark on a popped up bunt.
Washington would move Lark up a base with a one-out sacrifice bunt but, as the theme was the entire game, Hastie responded with his back against the wall and fanned the next Admiral hitter to leave the go ahead run 90 feet away.
It was the last time Danville had a chance to take the lead in the baseball game.
Rockcastle County began the top of the sixth with a baserunner as Rylee Denney was hit by a pitch. He would move to second on a balk, then three pitches later stole third.
Danville then brought their infield in to give them a better chance to throw out Denney at home in case he ran on a ground ball but one pitch after he stole third, he’d score the first run of the game after Jacob Loudermilk poked one through the left side into left field.
Wood would go on to strike out two of the next three batters but the damage had been done and Hastie would make the lead stick.
Rockcastle County’s junior pitcher would retire the first two batters of the bottom of the sixth before Barnes singled and Bryson Young walked but it was more of the same for Danville who, for the third straight inning, would leave at least one runner in scoring position.
The Rockets would add two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh, though, they didn’t even have to make contact with the baseball.
With Wood’s day on the mound over, Danville summoned their bullpen who struggled throwing strikes.
After a strikeout to begin the seventh, Rockcastle’s Anthony Houck would proceed to work a hit by pitch, Brent Lovell walked, Hunter Rigsby walked, Denney walked, Loudermilk was hit by a pitch and Hasty walked.
Couple that with three wild pitches and the Rockets put up two more runs to seal Danville’s fate 3-0.
For Danville, Ethan Wood went six innings, four hits, one earned run, three walks and 13 strikesouts.
An encouraging stat line, says Morse.
“He pitched a great game. You can’t say enough about it,” Morse said. “For a freshman, he did an awesome job.”
That’s the story line for Danville: Youth filled the lineup all year for a team that, for the most part, started four freshman and an eighth grader for the entire season but still won 28 games.
It’s something that Morse says should have Admiral fans excited for the future.
“The guys we have coming back, it’s about getting back to work. We have a great nucleus coming back and people probably aren’t going to overlook us next year like they did this year,” Morse said. “We had a good year, though, and I’m excited about the future.”
Danville does, however, lose two starting seniors: Brennan Washington and Austin Mott. They’re two players that Morse said did a great job leading the young Admirals.
“They’re just great kids,” Morse said. “They’re good baseball players, they work hard, they lead by example for us but they are just good kids. They’re what we want Danville Admiral baseball players to be like. They’re good in school, they’re good on the field, they’re good in town and with the personalities they have and their work ethic they’re gonna do great in whatever they decide to do.”
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