Franklin-Simpson beats Logan County, 7-4, to claim Region 4 title
The Franklin-Simpson baseball team is headed back to the KHSAA State Baseball Tournament for the first time since 2000.
The Wildcats defeated Logan County, 7-4, Wednesday in an electrifying Region 4 Tournament championship game to extend their remarkable 2017 season. It marked the program’s first regional title since a 6-1 win over the same opponent back on June 1, 2000.
- VIDEO: Kyle Gammons on the Wildcats’ victory
- VIDEO: Hunter Janes on the Wildcats’ victory
- PHOTOS: Franklin-Simpson 7, Logan County 4
Franklin (31-5) trailed 3-0 after three complete innings, but got its bats going in the fourth and played nearly perfect offensively throughout the remainder of the contest to comeback on the Cougars and seal the victory.
“I’m proud of our guys, man – that was a phenomenal win for those guys,” Franklin-Simpson head coach Kyle Gammons said. “I’m excited – they worked hard all year.”
Sophomore Jacob Curtis blasted a two-run homerun in the top of the fourth to bring the Wildcats to within 3-2 while Hunter Janes’ sacrifice flyout soon after evened the scoreboard. Curtis led the way for FSHS, going 2-for-4 with four RBI while Janes tallied a pair of RBI with a double in the sixth.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot of times this year,” said Gammons of his team’s comeback. “We get down and guys keep battling back. We had to work through some defensive woes there – there were a lot of errors both ways – as there is in these championship games. There are a lot of nerves in these games and we were able to overcome them.”
After the Wildcats went on to plate four more runs to lead 7-3 entering the bottom of the seventh, Logan County (24-11) brought its cheering section to life after scoring on senior Jackson Campbell’s single. With the bases loaded and Kaleb Justice up to bat, the power hitter sent a ball all the way to the wall in center field, but it was caught to end the game.
Campbell, a Belmont University signee, registered two hits on the day while Justice had a hit and an RBI. Austin Rayno also tallied two hits in the Cougars’ season-ending loss. Starting pitcher Dylan Penick had six strikeouts, but allowed nine hits and seven runs.
Zach Sliger pitched five full innings for the Wildcats, allowing three hits, a run and a strikeout after replacing starter Ryan Dorris. Dorris threw just two innings after giving up four hits and three runs in two innings.
“He hasn’t had one bad start (all season),” Janes said of Sliger’s performance. “The first time we played them, they just hit him well. But every other game he’s gotten better and better and he’s just had people looking foolish all year – and it’s just been amazing. Whenever he got on the mound tonight, I knew he was gonna throw strikes.”
After Franklin-Simpson went three-and-out to begin the game, Logan County scored twice in the bottom of the first inning to take an early 2-0 lead.
Rayno hit a leadoff single and Campbell reached on an error to set up Justice. Following a four-RBI outing in the Cougars’ semifinal victory over Warren East Tuesday, the first baseman doubled into center field to plate both runners. What would’ve been a sacrifice flyout for Nick Wooden to bring the score to 3-0 was ruled out by the umpires, resulting in the third out and bringing the first inning to a close.
The Wildcats had Dawson Gardner reach on an error in the second, but couldn’t get anything further. Similar to Franklin, Logan County had three guys get on in the ensuing frame – highlighted by Koby Wall’s single – but none would cross the plate.
Penick recorded a pair of strikeouts in the third and the Cougars’ offense would strike again in the frame.
With Justice on after being hit by a Sliger pitch, the runner would soon score on a two-out error. Wooden grounded to the Wildcats’ shortstop and while attempting to get the out at first, the throw went high and allowed Justice to get from second to home to make it a 3-0 affair.
Franklin-Simpson came alive in the fourth, scoring three runs on three hits to cut Logan’s advantage to 3-2.
Jackson Caudill led off with a single before Curtis crushed a two-run homerun over the left field wall. Following his seventh deep ball of the season, Jordan Jones tripled and Janes’ sacrifice fly plated Jones to even the scoreboard.
“Big (at-bat) for (Curtis),” Gammons stated. “He’s been struggling a little at the plate and was able to shorten up right there and got a pitch that he could really drive. He got it out of the ballpark to get us to within one – and the rally started from there for us.”
The Wildcats’ got the go-ahead run on second in the top of the fifth on Rylan Thomas’ double, but a pair of strikeouts by Penick – which moved him to six on the evening – left Thomas stranded.
Janes’ RBI double in the sixth gave Franklin its first lead of the contest. With Jones on after hitting a single, Janes’ shot into center plated the runner and put the Wildcats up 4-3. That advantage soon moved to two runs after Gardner’s single scored Janes.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” said Janes of the championship victory. “We haven’t been to the championship since 2007 and in my first three years we got put out first and second round – so to just come out here and play as a team and keep fighting for all seven innings to get this win, I’m just so overwhelmed.”
Leading 5-3 entering the seventh, Franklin’s offense struck yet again. Dorris singled and Thomas reached on an error to bring up the hot-hitting Curtis. After tallying a homerun in the fourth, Curtis earned two more RBI on a double into center, pushing his club’s advantage to 7-3.
Although it seemed that Franklin was well on its way to the title, Logan County made things interested in the bottom half of the frame. Needing four runs to tie and extend the game or five to win it, the Cougars were able to scratch a run – but came to close to adding three more.
Campbell’s RBI single plated Wright to make it 7-4. With a pair on and Justice up, the power hitter swung at a fastball – and watched the ball carry all the way to the wall in right center. While it seemed that Logan County may have tied the game at 7-7 with a three-run bomb, Justice’s ball was caught right at the ball to end the contest.
Franklin-Simpson will now meet the Region 6 champion – Pleasure Ridge Park or DeSales – on Friday, June 9 at 1:30 p.m. at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington in the first round of the state tournament.
“It’s special – it’s been a long time for Franklin-Simpson and our community,” added an emotional Gammons. “We’ve got a lot of fan support this year and a lot of people out at the ballpark to watch us play. These guys talk about the support we’ve got. We wanted to win it for our community … and I’m glad we got to bring it home for them tonight.”
Tyler Mansfield; @TheTMansfield