Smock Ks 8 to lead Logan County to Region 4 finals
When Ethan Smock is on, he’s virtually unstoppable to turn off.
The junior pitcher allowed just one hit Tuesday in the Region 4 Baseball Tournament semifinals, helping lead Logan County to a 9-1 victory over Russell County at Western Kentucky University’s Nick Denes Field.
Smock threw 5.33 innings and finished with eight strikeouts for the Cougars (24-10), who earned their first trip to the regional finals since 2013.
Logan County had six different batters finish with at least one hit while Kaleb Justice led the way with four RBI, courtesy of a bases-clearing double in the top of the fourth inning. As a team, the Cougars tallied 10 hits.
The Cougars will meet the winner of Warren East-Franklin-Simpson on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the championship.
After an inning of scoreless baseball, Logan County got its offense going in the top of the second.
Nick Wooden reached on an error and Koby Wall was walked, setting up Jack Wright. With the pair of runners on, Wright singled into center field to score Wooden from second. The Cougars doubled their lead to 2-0 on a throwing error by Russell County catcher Lucas Bault, who attempted to pickoff a runner, but his attempt went over the head of second baseman Peyton Back and into the outfield.
Austin Rayno walked following the score at home by Wall, but he would be stranded. Despite being left on, Logan County had a 2-0 advantage over the Lakers (22-13).
Russell County was able to get the bases loaded in the ensuing frame, but a Smock strikeout got the Cougars out of the jam. Hayes Coffey led off with a double and Henry Bertram and Kaleb Harris were both walked by Smock, but the pitcher made up for it by taking Jackson Best down swinging.
The Cougars added to their lead in the third on Jackson Campbell’s tag-up. After drilling a ball into center for a triple to begin the inning, Campbell crossed the plate on a double-play ground out to make it a 3-0 contest.
Smock allowed back-to-back batters to reach after hitting Back and walking Bault in the bottom half of the set, but also recorded three strikeouts in the frame to strand the pair and keep his shutout alive.
Logan County soon watched its 3-0 advantage change to 6-0 in the fourth, thanks to Justice’s double to the wall in center field. With D.J. Beard, Austin Rayno and Dylan Penick all on, Justice sent a fastball into the outfield to record three RBI and push his club’s lead to an even higher amount.
Bertram reached on an error for Russell to begin their offense in the bottom half of the inning, but Smock retired the following two batters to leave the runner at first and bring the fourth to a close.
Rayno hit a triple to begin the inning and Dylan Penick did the same – while his shot plated the leadoff hitter in the process. Soon after, Justice struck again with an RBI single and Third Bell singled to load the bases. Leading 8-0, Nick Wooden flied out to center – plating Bell and making it 9-0 to put the Lakers away for good.
Although there was a slim chance for a comeback, Russell County scored on Jackson Best’s sacrifice fly out in the bottom of the sixth. With Bertram on third, Best’s hit went far enough for the runner to cross and make it 9-1, but that’s as close as the Lakers would get.
Tyler Mansfield; @TheTMansfield