Admirals sail, Rebels fall in region action
It’s 2019 all over again at the 12th Region baseball tournament.
Old rivals Danville and Somerset will square off once again for the regional championship after both teams posted shutout victories in Sunday’s semifinal games.
One home run after another flew over the Danville fence as the Admirals put away Pulaski County 8-0 and the Briar Jumpers decimated Boyle County 15-0.
No. 2 Danville (37-3) went deep five times in its victory, and Somerset (15-13) launched six homers in its three-inning win.
The Admirals and Jumpers will play for the title at 6 p.m. Monday in a rematch of the most recent regional final in 2019.
Somerset won that game 10-9, and Danville coach Paul Morse said the sting of that defeat has stuck with the Admirals for two years.
“It’s been a long wait for these guys,” Morse said. “That’s a bitter pill to swill, the way we lost that, making seven or eight errors in that game. …
Having to wait two years for that, that’s pretty tough. But it’s fueled them.”
All six games in this regional tournament have been decided by eight runs or more, but Somerset coach Phil Grundy expects a closer game Monday.
“I think we’ll be in for a good ballgame tomorrow,” Grundy said. “Obviously Danville’s got a great program and they’ve had a terrific season, but one of us is going to have to step up tomorrow.”
Two University of Louisville signees will go head to head on the mound. Ethan Wood (7-1, 1.29 ERA) will start for Danville, and Kade Grundy (7-1, 2.40) will pitch for Somerset.
Danville 8, Pulaski County 0
Danville got all five of its homers Sunday in the second and third innings en route to its 15th consecutive win, increasing its record-setting season total to 83. The Admirals are now alone in third place on the list of the highest single-season home run totals in Kentucky high school baseball history.
“In the first inning we might have chased some balls out of the zone … and we had preached to wait for your pitch, make (the pitcher) get the ball up in the zone, and when he does don’t miss it,” Morse said.
Christian Howe and Preston Barnes opened the scoring with back-to-back bombs in the second inning.
Brady Morse and Howe went back to back in the third inning — Howe increased his home run total to 20 and his edge over Wood among the state leaders to three — and Brady Baxter added a homer to give Danville a 6-0 lead and chase Pulaski starter Brysen Dugger.
Howe went 3 for 4 with two home runs and four RBIs. He has 20 home runs this season, becoming the ninth Kentucky player and the third Danville player to hit 20 homers in a single season.
He also pitched a shutout, allowing only four hits and one walk and striking out nine.
“The first inning or two he was trying to feel around for his offspeed pitches, and once he got that he became dominant,” Morse said. “(In the middle) innings he started throwing the curveball, slider, changeup, whatever he wanted for strikes. Once that comes and you have the upper 80s to 90 mph fastball, it’s pretty tough for high school kids.”
Pulaski (22-14) didn’t get a runner past second base until the sixth inning, when the Maroons stranded runners at first and third.
Danville tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning on a double by Howe, who leads the state in hits (69) and RBIs (73) in addition to home runs and ranks third in batting average (.566) and is 8-1 on the mound with a 0.57 ERA.
Morse and Barnes each had two of the Admirals’ 11 hits.
Somerset 15, Boyle County 0, 5 innings
Boyle (23-15) was buried beneath a 10-run second inning that included four Somerset home runs.
The Rebels suffered their first run-rule loss of the season less than 24 hours after they put up 24 runs in a first-round win over Mercer County.
“It’s definitely not what we pictured,” Boyle coach Adam Blair said. “Their bats were hot, the momentum was on their side. Those guys came swinging, and we didn’t really get a chance to get any offense going. Our top guys barely got two at-bats, and we stayed on defense most of the game, obviously.”
Somerset emerged as the top offensive team of the tournament, having scored 34 runs in only eight at-bats in its wins over Wayne County and Boyle.
Camden Ryan homered twice, Kade Grundy and Tanner Popplewell each had grand slam home runs, and Dakota Acey and Cole Reynolds each hit their first career home runs to headline the Somerset slugfest.
Boyle got only one hit — a first-inning single by Cole Sims — and one walk-off Somerset’s Jonathan Phipps, who dispatched the Rebels on only 43 pitches and had two strikeouts.
The Rebels left runners on second and third in the bottom of the first after Ryan hit a two-out homer in the top of the inning, but they were still in the game until the Somerset second.
Boyle starter Kason Myers allowed eight runs on seven hits.
The Rebels had won 11 of their previous 14 games, and Blair said a team that was lacking in varsity experience when the season began and which lost two starting pitchers to injuries was getting hot at the right time.
“Everybody has their day. Today just wasn’t our day,” Blair said. “I’m still proud of them. Definitely not how I wanted to end it. I’d rather it had been a one-run ballgame, but at the end of the day an ‘L’ is an ‘L.’”