Boyle gains split but Garrard gets No. 1 district seed

Published 1:30 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

Both teams took something away from the series between the top teams in the 45th District this week, but Garrard County got the grand prize.

The Golden Lions earned the No. 1 seed for the 45th District baseball tournament for only the second time in school history Wednesday during the second game of their home-and-home against Boyle County.

There wasn’t a great deal of celebration in the Garrard camp after Boyle won a 10-inning thriller, but the Lions had locked up the No. 1 seed before the game went to extra innings.

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“We wanted to win that game, but that is nice,” Garrard coach Tee Ellis said. “I was proud of them. Disappointed in how the game ended, but very proud of how they battled.”

Garrard (17-6, 5-1 district) got the top seed for the first time since 2015, winning a tiebreaker with Boyle (16-8, 5-1) by allowing fewer runs in their head-to-head meetings.

The Lions’ 10-2 victory Monday in Lancaster gave them the edge in that tiebreaker even as it brought an end to their 17-game losing streak against the Rebels.

“Ever since I’ve been here I’ve always heard Boyle’s the top dog,” Garrard senior Merrick Graham said. “I’ve never seen a Garrard County team come close to beating them in baseball, but we knew we were better than them this year, and before the season even started we were already gunning for them.”

After the second game of the series was rained out Tuesday, Boyle got a measure of revenge Wednesday in Danville when it outlasted Garrard 3-2 in a hotly contested and occasionally contentious game between two of the top teams in the 12th Region.

Boyle coach Adam Blair said the win has meaning for the Rebels because of how difficult it was to get it.

“It does. They’re a great team and it was a hard-fought game … and today was our first game that we kind of went toe to toe (with another team) for a while,” Blair said.

Keenan Stewart’s two-out blooper to the right side of the infield drove in Logan Perry with the winning run for Boyle in the bottom of the 10th inning.

“I was just digging it out to first with my head down,” Stewart said. “I thought it was a routine play. I didn’t think I was going to get there, but it happened how it happened.”

And it ended a thrilling game that featured timely pitching, stellar defensive plays and an above-average amount of chirping.

“Any time you get to play in a 10-inning game, that’s a lot of fun, and especially with Garrard,” Stewart said. “Two big rivals, and we both want to beat each other pretty bad and it’s a good atmosphere to play in and a fun time.”

Stewart’s winning hit was the last of nine hits Boyle managed against Garrard pitcher Zach Stacy, who threw 113 pitches in a complete-game loss. Stacy, a sophomore, stranded runners in scoring position in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings before Boyle got to him in the 10th.

Ellis gave up an earned run in the second inning and an unearned run in the fifth. He struck out seven batters and walked three.

“He just battled all night, and I couldn’t be prouder. I don’t have the words. He just did a great job all night,” Ellis said. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t support him offensively, because he deserved to win that game.”

Boyle pitchers Landon Parnass and Brayden West combined to hold Garrard to three hits. Parnass struck out six batters in five innings, and West fanned five in five innings.

“Both our pitchers did phenomenal, our defense made some great plays, and their defense and pitchers did phenomenal. We were both struggling to string some hits together,” Blair said.

Garrard was able to do that Monday, when it outhit Boyle 11-10 and left six runners on base while the Rebels stranded 10.

Hayden Elleman got the Lions going when he smashed the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence for a solo home run. No. 9 hitter Caleb Meade provided the big blow with a grand slam home run to center field that was part of a five-run second inning that gave them a 6-2 lead.

Garrard combined those blows and a collection of singles with four sacrifice bunts and some other small-ball plays.

“Those plays are important. They’re tone-setters,” said Graham, who threw 114 pitches in a complete-game win. “Not being able to make a play on a bunt kills momentum, and being able to execute that … is just easy base hits.”

Garrard’s last win over Boyle was on April 12, 2016, but Ellis said the Lions came into Monday’s game with exactly the level of confidence he was looking for.

“We’ve tried to instill that confidence in them since we came here as a staff for the past five years, and it’s slowly grown,” he said.

The Lions lost to the Rebels three times last season, including in the district final, but Ellis and his players said another year of experience and a challenging schedule prepared them for the opportunity they made the most of Monday.

“We’ve been preparing really good this week. We’ve played some really tough competition this year, so I feel like we were prepared and this is a game we circled on our schedule and couldn’t wait to play,” Elleman said.

Boyle has played a tough schedule as well, and, like Garrard, it will continue to play good teams to prepare for the postseason.

“We’re doing that because if you’re going to win district, if you’re going to win region, if you’re going to go to the state tournament, you’re going to have to prepare against good competition,” Blair said.