Fri, May 25, 2018 12:23 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
LC sweeps Rebels; next mission, ground Apollo
by James Ellis

PAINTSVILLE — It has been said that good pitching beats good hitting, and in the semi-state round against Allen Central, the Lawrence County Bulldogs proved that adage to be true as they got two mound gems to beat the Rebels 4-1 and 9-1 in a doubleheader at Paul G. Fyffe Field in Paintsville last Thursday.

Sophomore Steve Blevins blazed his team past the Rebels 4-1 in the first game, striking out nine batters and walking none with just three hits and an unearned run allowed. Junior Chris Pope made his first start of the season in the final game and dazzled Allen Central with a three-hitter of his own as he struck out seven to get the crucial win.

With those victories, the Bulldogs advanced to the state tournament in Lexington and earned the right to take on Third Region champion Owensboro Apollo in the first round today, Wednesday, at 6 p.m. at Applebee’s Park.

“We have been this far before, when it was in a different format in 1995,” said Bulldogs head coach Randy Keeton as he tried to keep focused on the future while basking in the moment on the infield during the team’s post-game celebration. “We made it to the final eight teams that year and got beat the very next game.”

Keeton found little to critique in examining his team’s performance at the semi-state level.

“We made a few errors, but I believe this was our seventh straight game with one run or less allowed, so we are getting the pitching and the defense and a team playing like that deserves to go on,” said Keeton.

In the first game, Blevins was overpowering with his fastball, and that set the tone for the evening for Ronnie Patton’s Allen Central lineup.

“We just could not get any offense going against their pitching,” Patton said. “We got pretty good pitching ourselves and kind of fell apart in the second game, but we just had no bats. I can’t take anything away from Blevins, though. He is an exceptional high school pitcher.”

The Bulldogs got the scoring under way in the third inning with a single by Kevin Workman, who took third on a single by James Maynard and then scored on a wild pitch from Rebel starter Jon Hall to make it 1-0.

In the top of the fifth, the Dawgs got three more when they recorded three straight singles by Maynard, Eric Parker and Pope, then got a deep sacrifice fly to center from Blevins, an infield RBI single from Kyle Barnette and an RBI single from Brad Caudill.

The Rebels got one run back in the bottom of the sixth when Dustin Hammonds laced a double and went to third on a wild pitch, and Hall picked up an RBI when he reached on an error.

But Blevins basically cruised untouched as he won his second consecutive critical game and improved to 10-1 on the season.

In the second game, the Bulldogs struck first again in the second inning when Caudill singled and went to second on an error. Barnette moved him over to third with a sacrifice and he then scored on a single from Casey Howard for a 1-0 lead.

The next inning saw the Dawgs plate three runs as Maynard reached on an error, Parker singled, a muffed third strike on Pope sent both runners up a base and then Blevins singled Maynard home and Caudill singled both runners in with a sharp knock to right. They then had a 4-0 lead.

The Rebels scored in the top of the fifth when Justin Jacobs walked and later scored on a base hit by Hammonds, but the Bulldogs retaliated with two more runs in the bottom of the fifth on singles by Blevins and Workman, then scored three in the bottom of the sixth on one hit and two crucial Rebel errors.

The win pushed Lawrence County’s record to 28-9 and ended the Rebels’ season at 17-12.

“They have a good ball club,” Keeton said. “There were a few points where I thought we might be in trouble, but we got good pitching and good defense and some clutch hits to pull it out.”

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