MUNFORDVILLE — LaRue County coach Chris Price thought the Hawks looked way too timid Monday evening.
In the first five minutes, they allowed the first two batters to reach base. They committed an error. And they looked nothing like the nine-time defending 18th District Baseball Tournament champions.
Then came a 27-minute lightning delay, during which Price reminded the Hawks to become more assertive.
“I think we came out nervous. During the (lightning) delay, we got on them about being more aggressive,” Price said after his top-seeded Hawks eventually recorded a 14-2 win in five innings against the fourth-seeded Hart County Raiders. “Everybody was a little tentative. After the (lightning), everyone came out much better. The first game in the postseason tends to be that way.”
As usual, the Hawks responded.
After Hart County (3-25) scored two runs in the top of the first, LaRue County (23-8) piled up seven over the next two en route to earning an appearance in tonight’s championship against Caverna or Green County. Green County led Caverna, 1-0 after two innings in Monday’s late semifinal, which was postponed by rain.
The Green County-Caverna game resumes at 6 p.m. today with the winner taking on LaRue County in the final immediately following, which is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The win also allowed LaRue County to earn a berth in the 5th Region Baseball Tournament, which begins with four quarterfinal games Monday at Central Hardin.
To get there, the Hawks overcame a nerve-ridden opening half-inning before making a rally and recovering with some defense.
The Hawks gave up two runs, committed two errors and junior pitcher Slade Owens had an ominous start. He walked Wesley Yates on seven pitches before the Hawks recorded an error to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Then there was the delay.
After it, life still didn’t improve too much.
Two batters later, Hart County’s Steven Riggs hit an RBI single and Cody Underwood scored on a LaRue County throwing error for a 2-0 lead.
The Hawks recovered and that was the only hit Owens (two strikeouts, one walk) gave up the rest of the game.
They scored two runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game, then their defense gave them some momentum with back-to-back defensive gems in the second.
Junior Wesley Kessinger made a snowcone catch on Zack Jewell’s line drive to first base to record the first out of the inning.
“It struck my glove up there and it really surprised me. This glove, I’m not very used to it. This is the first year I’ve played first base. I don’t like the way it’s broken in, but it gets the job done,” Kessinger said. “I looked in there and it really surprised me.”
Then, junior center fielder Kyle Sheeran made a sliding catch on Chris Embry’s fly ball to record the inning’s second out and Kessinger caught a foul ball at first base to make it a one-two-three inning.
That defense ignited the Hawks and their offense followed.
LaRue County scored five runs off four hits in the second inning, with junior Kyle Meredith’s two-run single giving them a 5-2 lead. They scored two runs off an error and capitalized off six Raiders miscues overall. LaRue County chased Hart County starter Logan Dennison after only one inning.
Meredith went 3-for-3 at the plate, recording team-highs of four RBIs and three hits. He singled in the first and second innings and reached on an error and had a two-run double in the seven-run fourth.
Owens and Sheeran each had two hits, with Sheeran adding two RBIs.
“I was slumping before the district tournament. I would get on my front foot and get anxious,” Sheeran said. “Tonight, I stayed back and let the ball come to me.”
LARUE COUNTY 14, HART COUNTY 2 (5 INNings)
R H E
Hart County 200 00 2 1 6
LaRue County 250 70 14 10 3
Logan Dennison, Wesley Yates (2) and Yates, Dennison (2). Slade Owens and Matt Smith. WP: Owens (8-3). LP: Dennison. 3B: Kelton Ford (LC). 2B: Kyle Meredith (LC).