Garrard falls in 12th Region baseball final

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Contributing Writer

HARRODSBURG — It was a season to remember for Garrard County. The ending? That’s something the Golden Lions would probably like to forget.

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The Lions’ record-setting baseball season came to an unceremonious end Thursday when Pulaski County pummeled them in the championship of the 12th Region Tournament.

Garrard fell behind 9-0 in the first inning and never threatened the lead as its bid to capture their first regional title ended with a 17-3 defeat.

It surely wasn’t the way the Lions wanted to go out after winning more games than any Garrard team before them, and coach Tee Ellis said it wasn’t what he wanted them to remember about this season.

“Not a lot of people outside of us — nobody, I’ll just go ahead and say it — picked us to be here, so I’m super proud of them,” Ellis said.

Indeed, Garrard wasn’t expected to contend for a regional title, in large part because it has seldom been in contention. The Lions had reached the regional finals only twice before, losing the title game in 1981 and 2015.

Garrard (25-13) hoped this result would be different, but those hopes were dashed when one Pulaski player after another circled the bases in the first inning.

Pulaski (21-16) sent 13 batters to the plate in that inning, and seven of the first eight reached base. There were three walks, three singles, a hit batsman, a double, a triple and a grand slam by Jace Frye that was only the second home run in 18 games played at the spacious Mercer County field that opened last month.

“It is hard, nine runs in one inning. It’s tough,” Ellis said. “But you try, and we did. We battled.”

The Lions got off the mat with two straight scoring innings. A single by Brayden Poynter and a Pulaski error led to two runs in the second, and Merrick Graham led off the third with a double and scored on an error to pull them within 9-3.

The Maroons responded, however, with a second big blow that Ellis said was just as devastating as the first. They scored five runs with two outs in the third inning as six straight batters reached base to stretch their lead to 14-3 and effectively clinch their first regional title since 2002.

Only one more Garrard batter reached base, and the game ended after 4 1/2 innings, making it the first run-rule game in the regional finals since 2013.

Emotions were evident on the faces of players and coaches following a lengthy postgame huddle in the right-field corner, and Ellis’ voice cracked as he spoke of his pride in the team.

“It just shows you how much it means to them,” he said.

The Lions got off to a 9-0 start and went on to set a school record for victories, and they allowed only one run in their first two regional tournament games, beating Mercer County 1-0 and Southwestern 4-1.

That put them in position to become only the second team from a Garrard County school to win a regional title — Paint Lick did so in 1941 — which was rarified air for a program that hadn’t won a postseason game since 2015 and had only four winning seasons in the previous 20 years.

They didn’t get that done, but Ellis said they raised the bar for future players at Garrard, many of whom were part of a large crowd on hand to support the Lions.

“It makes them believe,” he said. “It keeps that going and it sets expectations high. That’s what we want: Set the bar high and don’t come down from it.”

Pulaski pounds Boyle

Before Pulaski routed Garrard, it pushed Boyle County aside in a 12-0, five-inning semifinal win Wednesday.

The Maroons scored three runs in the first inning and four more in the third inning, and pitcher Carter Ross held a Boyle team that had the region’s highest batting average to just three hits.

It was the Rebels’ first run-rule loss this season and only the second in three seasons under coach Adam Blair.

“For us, it’s kind of shell-shocking that we got run-ruled. It just doesn’t happen,” Blair said. “We never had a run-rule (loss) all year, and we haven’t had 12 runs scored on us all year.”

Boyle (24-10) had the best record in the region and won its second straight 45th District crown.

“I told them not to let one game define the season. We’ve had a great season as a program,” Blair said. “Just build on this and remember how bad it felt.”

All-tournament selections

Graham, Tavian Neff and Logan Quinn of Garrard; Kason Myers and Coleman Stewart of Boyle and Evan Hart of Mercer were named to the all-tournament team.