Scott County’s pitching was sharp enough to win against Henry Clay in the 42nd District’s inaugural baseball series on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Two hits every game – or every game for that matter – is usually not enough. The Cardinals team’s batting average, which started the week at a .218, fell even further after a 3-2 loss at Lexington and a 3-0 judgment in the encore at Sutton Field.
“Room for error” remain spring’s catchphrases, and as a result of its ever-present youth and top-down struggles on the plate, Scott County (7-14, 0-2) has precious little.
“Our lead is so small against really good teams and really good throwers that you can’t go wrong,” said SC coach Scott Willard. “Any time you have one of these opportunities, you have to try to capitalize on it. When you get 10, 12 goals a game, you have to be able to capitalize on those opportunities.”
The Cardinals, who have a team ERA under 3.50 and are averaging nearly one strikeout per inning, failed to capitalize on the solid mound work from their double strike from senior right-hander Joseph Garrison and freshman left Jack Willhite.
Garrison went the distance, scattering eight hits and knocking out seven. Kasen Parks reached out to him for a solo home run to christen the bottom of the first.
SC fought back in the second with the help of a leadoff double from catcher Jay Wilson, who also knocked out three baserunners in the two-game set.
The Blue Devils (8-7, 2-1) then botched the game on Shawn Rowe’s victim bunch by setting up through a binding RBI groundout from Luke Valencia and a go-ahead shot from Aiden Lopez.
Henry Clay pitcher Blake VanHorn was given a reprieve when the cards ran out of frame going into the final, and his team struggled with two at the bottom of the inning for what would prove the ultimate lead.
Back-to-back singles from Parks (bunny), Walden Cole, and Ben Taylor put the Devils back in front.
Two walks were the only blemishes from that point against VanHorn, who dropped 10 and had no earned run.
“Same age, same age. The last two days we have seen good pitchers. I still think we’re taking way too many good fastballs,” Willard said. “That’s definitely not what they’re told. “Guys, attack Fastballs. Guys, attack fastballs. Let’s go.’ You can probably hear me out there. If they have one over there, let’s go.”
Willhite passed Tierney’s basket of goose eggs in the first four innings before three consecutive errors doomed Scott County in the fifth.
He departed after giving out a leadoff walk in the sixth and Valencia kept Henry Clay at bay for the duration. Willhite allowed five hits and knocked out four.
SC kept runners on base in first, third and fourth, while Henry Clay landed six overall in the first three frames.
After Willhite talked a fly ball into leaving the bases loaded in the first, Wilson singled and Jacob Blair went with two outs but was left in place by a fly ball.
Valencia went but dared not go further in the second inning, the same inning where Willhite roared back after a 3-0 count to give Cole an inning-ending strike.
The Cards’ best chance came in the fourth when Blair led with a walk and went for second with a pass. A failed sacrificial attempt became a routine groundball with two punches and Tierney made Garrison search and Valencia swung to an escape.
“It was a 0-0 game, second base, nobody out,” Willard said. “We can’t get the Bunt down. We don’t execute. We don’t score there. That could have put us 1-0 and maybe it will change the dynamic of the game.”
Parks singled sharply before the handful of penalties in the fifth inning. Konlin Brown overran the third run with a sacrificial bunt.
Scott County made a district regenout with Bryan Station on Thursday, and the road isn’t getting any easier with a double bill Saturday in Lexington.
“We’re so young and it’s very difficult to get someone to play us because of past successes,” Willard said. “Like this weekend, we’re playing Tates Creek and North Oldham and they’re really good. I can’t play teams that are there (where we are).
The consensus top 2 teams in the district, Sayre and Frederick Douglass, are also waiting in the wings for their series with Scott County.
At this point, it’s a steep climb for SC to earn anything higher than a No. 4 and stay out of the quarterfinal round of the playoffs in the five-team pod.
“They kept their confidence pretty well, and they kept their composure pretty well,” Willard said. “They play hard every day. I just hope it doesn’t knock her down.”