Bowling Green falls to McCracken County in state quarterfinals
LEXINGTON—First Region powerhouse McCracken County was simply too much for Bowling Green to handle on Saturday night.
The Mustangs took control of the game from the very beginning by posting seven runs in the first inning, and McCracken County dealt the Purples a 16-0 loss in five innings in the quarterfinals of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington.
“It just wasn’t in the cards tonight,” Bowling Green coach Matt Myers said. “We got beat by a very good McCracken team.”
The Mustangs were led offensively by leadoff batter Rook Ellington, who went 2-for-3 with a single and triple to drive in a team-high four runs.
Dylan Schneider earned the win on the mound for McCracken County, allowing no runs on three hits and one walk while striking out six in five innings of work.
McCracken County (34-8) will return to Lexington next weekend to play Ninth Region champion Highlands in the semifinals on Friday night. The Bluebirds (28-13) advanced to the semifinals with a 5-0 victory over 15th Region champion Paintsville.
Bowling Green’s season is finished with a record of 22-12, and the Purples won 15 out of their final 19 games after starting the season with a mark of 7-8—that positive stretch including an 8-6 win over Madison Central on Friday night that marked the first win in the state tournament since 1995.
“This group wasn’t supposed to be here,” Myers said. “We believed that we could be here, and it was really neat to see them come together and be such a good team down the stretch.”
The Purples were led in the loss by Jay Buser, Geoffery Ross and Will Garske, who each recorded one hit—Garske notching Bowling Green’s only extra-base hit on the night with a double down the line in left to begin the top of the fourth.
McCracken County didn’t waste any time getting its bats going.
The Mustangs scored the first run of the game when Elijah Wheat scored on a balk by Tomblinson after hitting a double to left with one out.
Will Sykes followed with an RBI double to right, and the Mustangs continued to pour it on as Sykes advanced on a wild pitch before stealing home to push McCracken’s advantage to 3-0.
Cameron Langston scored on another balk by Tomblinson after drawing a walk and stealing both second and third, and Ellington made the most of his second at-bat in the inning with a bases-clearing, 3-RBI triple off the fence in the left—the Mustang senior narrowly missing out on the rare inside-the-park grand slam as he was tagged out at home plate to end the first inning with McCracken County still owners of a commanding 7-0 lead.
Neither team scored in the second inning, but McCracken County put a damper on any hopes for a Purples’ comeback with nine runs in the bottom of the third—the offensive explosion being highlighted by Schneider’s 2-RBI single. Overall the Mustangs pounded out nine runs on six hits and four walks in the half inning—scoring four of the nine runs with two outs.
Neither team scored in the fourth, and Schneider closed the door in the top of the fifth to send the Mustangs into the semifinals.
Even though Bowling Green’s season ended unceremoniously this year, Myers does not doubt the potential for a return trip to Lexington in the coming years.
“Our cupboards aren’t bare,” Myers said. “They’re loaded. I expect Bowling Green to make a run at this thing in the next three or four years.”
Although the future is looking bright, Bowling Green will greatly miss the play of its five seniors: Buser, Garske, Ben Ginter, Jackson Stahl and Eli Thurman.
“Their entire life they’ve been playing behind two really good classes,” Myers said. “They haven’t had a shot to do a whole lot. This year they got their shot, and all five of them had big roles…I’m just proud of them because they got here and got a win, and that says something. This team is going to go down in history because of what transpired this year for them.”
Prior to first pitch, the crowd at Whitaker Bank Ballpark gave a round of applause to recognize the life and legacy of Paul Gray. Gray was a local sports photographer and legend in the Bowling Green area who passed away at the age of 66 earlier in the day on Saturday.