While Scott County baseball’s senior ace Joseph Garrison spanned what was almost certainly an unprecedented week of pitching excellence in the city, he took hill mania to a level that sent shockwaves across the state.
Garrison hurled a perfect game against fifth-place Kentucky team 42nd Ward rival Frederick Douglass in a 3-0 win Tuesday night at Sutton Field.
“I always wanted it. I wanted it this year. I’ve never gotten one (at any level),” Garrison said. “The last inning scared me. That really scared me. I was about to freak out.”
Heavy rain came just as Garrison prepared to face the top third of a Frederick Douglass lineup crammed with NCAA Division I athletes at the top of seventh place.
Andrew Willhite tracked down a flyball deep in right field corner in front of Jeremiah Lowe’s bat before Garrison scored his fifth strikeout of the night at the University of Kentucky and was signed at Ty Bryant’s expense.
Garrison missed out on major credit with his first two offers to Leighton Harris, who has announced his intention to play baseball in the UK.
“It slipped a lot,” Garrison said. “I kept having to change balls and just try to finish it.”
The rain eased slightly and Harris witnessed two strikes before hitting Connor Ramsey with a slow roller at second base. Ramsey freaked out to Jacob Blair for the final and Garrison threw his gauntlet in the sky as exuberant teammates converged on all sides.
Just in case the skyjuice hadn’t soaked his pinstriped uniform, Garrison was showered with what appeared to be every unattended water bottle in the dugout.
“We’ve had a lot of good pitchers here, and I don’t know if we’ve ever had a perfect game (seven innings),” said SC coach Scott Willard. “He just hit his points and was able to throw multiple pitches for strikes.”
It is the third no-hitter by a Cardinal in a district game in the last five seasons. Jordan Fox (2017) and Cade McKee (2018) tossed one each to Sayre. McKee’s was a perfect five-inning game.
As of last Wednesday, every college baseball and softball team in the county has celebrated a no-hitter. Jacob Steele (Great Crossing Baseball), Layne Ogle and Destiney Reed (combined for GC Softball) and Ada Little (perfect game, SC Softball) preceded Garrison.
Eleven outs were in the air and five more were down. Garrison struck out five while improving his record to 5-2 and dropping his ERA to 1.74.
An old-school pitcher by definition in an era when scouts and spectators are smitten with hard pitchers, Garrison bluntly called his move a “crap,” but said every other pitch in his repertoire worked beautifully.
“I spoke to people the night before and said I have to be one step ahead of every hitter,” Garrison said. “That was my goal with no walks, which I also didn’t run to anyone, which I’m proud of.”
Scott County (10-19, 3-3) defeated a top-25 opponent for the fourth time this spring. Frederick Douglass (21-7, 5-2) recently defeated No. 1 St. Xavier after the Louisville team defeated Brother Rice of Chicago, the nation’s sixth-ranked player.
Achieving a lead—far from automatic for an SC squad that went into the night with a .208 batting average—provided a crucial confidence boost.
Blair and Luke Valencia each waited a walk on previously undefeated Eastern Kentucky University’s Gavin Faulkner in the second inning to set the table for Sebastian Arden’s two-run double from the left field wall.
Shawn Rowe advanced the runners on a hit-and-run groundout right before Arden’s exploits.
“We hit enough,” Willard said. “Faulkner was a little wild there in one inning and we got two runs from him. Just hired some guys, good bats in front of them. Sebastian had a good shot. Rowe had a good shot. Our younger boys are starting to come over and do some things.
SC welcomed assist Braxton Burse with another two-out record in the fourth.
Paul Garner reached the fence with a double but was later picked off and overrun in third.
Valencia, who reached base in all three of his plate appearances, kept the inning alive with a walk and steal of second, and Rowe pushed him home with a single to center.
“It was very important,” Garrison said of the lead. “I might have preferred a 4-0 lead only in the event of a Grand Slam, but I’m happy.”
There were few anxious moments from there, though Arden, Valencia and Ramsey all made key plays to retire the fleet-footed Broncos at first base.
A failed squeeze Bunt ended a rally late in the sixth that could have given Garrison more breathing room.
Following mercy rule losses to Anderson County and Lexington Christian late last week, SC’s longtime leader reminded the Cards of their track record against touted enemies.
“I told the guys yesterday that the two teams that we played from Virginia (during the spring breaks in Vero Beach, Florida) are the best teams that we have played all year,” Willard said . “They have several D1 players and we were beaten 5-3 4-3. I told our boys if we could somehow bring those games back, those games we played in Florida are good enough to beat anyone in our district.
SC still has a mathematical chance of finishing in first place with four teams at the top of the district. That would require a laundry list of results to pave the way for the cards, not least a series sweep if they travel to face the Broncos on Wednesday.
The Cardinals are 4-0 at home in the brief rivalry and own a 6-1 record overall against the Broncos.
“We only take it seriously when it really counts, and we have to do that in every game, not just ranked teams or district games,” Garrison said. “But I have really good faith in us, really big.”
For now, Willard is content to celebrate one of his most dedicated players.
“I’m just really happy for Joe. He’s done his job every time,” Willard said. “No one really sees how we would train and he would go to the weight room. I would eat at Mi Casita or something and he would train at Elite (fitness). He had a good night but it’s the culmination of all the hard work he’s put in over the last two or three years. It really paid off.”