Garrard advances, Boyle falls in baseball regional

Published 4:15 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

It was important for Garrard County to get off to a fast start, and it was just as important for the Golden Lions to keep their foot on the gas.

The Lions set the tone early and protected the lead they built in the first inning Wednesday to defeat Somerset 8-5 in the first round of the 12th Region baseball tournament.

They put together timely hits three different times during the game at Wayne County, getting 12 hits in their three scoring innings.

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“Those early inning runs, they’ll make a team shut down, but we kept fighting after those early runs and we kept playing,” said senior Tavian Neff, one of five Garrard players who had multiple hits.

Garrard advanced to the semifinals and gave coach Tee Ellis his 100th career victory. The Lions faced West Jessamine on Thursday night as they tried to reach the regional finals for the second straight year and to move one step closer to their first regional title.

Boyle County was not so fortunate. The Rebels’ season ended Tuesday with a 4-3, eight-inning loss to Pulaski County in their first-round game.

Garrard (23-10) put up three runs in the first inning and got two of them with two outs. The Lions got a pair of two-out runs in the third to go up 5-0 and kept Somerset (23-16) off the board until the fourth, when the Briar Jumpers scored three times.

The Lions answered immediately, using five straight hits in the top of the fifth to plate three runs and take an 8-3 lead.

“We wanted to extend the lead,” Ellis said.

That gave Merrick Graham and Neff room to work on the mound, and both pitchers worked their way out of tough spots.

“That’s what those guys do,” Ellis said.

Graham threw 114 pitches over six innings in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits and had seven strikeouts. Neff came on in the seventh and put two runners on to bring the tying run to the plate before getting the last two outs to earn a save.

“I was not rattled,” Neff said.

Graham was approaching the maximum 125 pitches allowed in a single day, and Neff was brought in to give a dangerous Somerset lineup a different look.

“That’s exactly what it was,” Neff said.

Hayden Elleman, Logan Quinn, Jayden Ray and Caleb Meade joined Neff with two hits each for Garrard, which had been held to four runs or less in five of its previous six games.

“We had more than a week since our last game, and we had done a lot of hitting in our facility to get ready for this game,” Ellis said.

Boyle (24-12) lost by an eyelash in a first-round battle between two teams with realistic hopes of winning the title.

“It was a championship-type atmosphere. It felt like it was the final game, which it was for one of us, and both teams played great,” Boyle coach Adam Blair said. “And our guys left it all on the line. We just didn’t get timely hits.”

The Rebels had 10 baserunners in the final four innings, nine of whom reached base on walks, and they managed only a single run.

“We had some situations where we couldn’t take advantage on offense and defensively we had a couple errors … but overall I’m just super proud of the fight, and they never gave up,” Blair said.

Boyle tied the game at 2-all in the fourth inning when Logan Marsee belted a two-run home run to dead center field.

The Rebels got only one more hit after that, a leadoff double in the fifth by Alex Smith, who scored on a bases-loaded walk to give them a 3-2 lead.

Pulaski (17-11) tied the game in the sixth inning and took the lead in the eighth when a two-out error allowed the go-ahead run to score.

Boyle starter Brayden West allowed two runs on five hits in five innings, and Cameron Owens allowed two runs on two hits in three innings.

They are part of a 10-man senior class that went 95-45-1 over the past four seasons with three 45th District titles and one Kentucky 2A Championships sectional title.

“They’re just consistent. They come in to work every day and they care about each other,” Blair said. “Five of them have signed to play college baseball, three of them are going to fish in college and the other two are going to college. So not only are they good baseball players, they’re great young men and they’re going to be good at whatever they do, and that’s what’s important at the end of the day.

“Wins and losses come and go, but the relationship with them is what’s important, and I’m just honored to have gotten to coach them the last four years and to see them grow as men. I wish it could’ve gone a little bit differently today just like they do.”