State baseball tournament: Preview of first-round matchups
LEXINGTON—The state baseball tournament has finally arrived as the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament begins on Thursday morning at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington.
Region Four champion Bowling Green is slated to play Region 11 champion Madison Central at 8:30 p.m. EST on Friday, and here’s a quick preview of all the other first-round matchups in this year’s state tournament.
Region 16 champion Greenup County (36-5) vs. Region Three champion Muhlenberg County (21-14)
The first matchup of the state tournament features two teams that have been in different situations this season.
Greenup County has been a dominating force in eastern Kentucky since the first day of the season as the Musketeers defeated their three opponents in the 16thRegion Tournament by a combined score of 29-1. The Musketeers are led by the trio of Gage Hughes, Collier Wireman, and Dylan Ball. Hughes leads the state in runs scored with 65, is fifth in home runs with nine and is 14th in runs batted in with 45 while Ball and Wireman are ranked in the top 25 in RBIs with 40 and 46, respectively.
Meanwhile Muhlenberg County had a six-game losing streak at one point this season that dropped them to 6-9 on the year, and the Mustangs won all of their regional tournament games by only one run.
Region 13 champion Corbin (24-12) vs. Region 14 champion Hazard (24-9)
The second first-round matchup features two schools that are in adjacent regions but did not square off once this season.
Corbin pounded out 17 runs in a 17-10 victory over Whitley County for the region title, and the Redhounds are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2005. Corbin is led by junior Chase Estep, who has nine home runs and 42 RBIs on the year.
Meanwhile Hazard returns to Lexington for the third consecutive season, and the Bulldogs will look to ride the big bats of Bryson Parks (10 home runs), Devin Morris (49 RBI), and Bailey Blair (40 RBI).
Region Six champion Pleasure Ridge Park (28-6) vs. Region Seven champion St. Xavier (33-2)
Located in the same metro area, Pleasure Ridge Park and St. Xavier make up the third first-round matchup of the state tournament.
The Panthers and Tigers met once during the regular season as St. Xavier notched a 17-5 victory back on May 2.
PRP is led by the duo of Noah McDonald and Nick Rucker. McDonald is second in the state with a batting average of .547 while Rucker is 12thin runs batted in with 46 on the year.
St. Xavier won its first 24 games of the season before losing at McCracken County on May 12, and the Tigers captured the regional title a week after losing to Male in the 26thDistrict title game.
Region Five champion LaRue County (22-7) vs. Region 12 champion Boyle County (26-6)
The game between LaRue County and Boyle County features two teams that are hitting different strides going into the state tournament.
The Hawks have ripped off 13 straight victories after a shaky start to the season while the Rebels come into Lexington with just five victories in their last eight games—including a 6-3 setback to Danville in the 45thDistrict title game.
Boyle County senior Ty Dragan will be a player to watch in this matchup as he currently owns an impressive .485 batting average with seven home runs on the season.
Region Nine champion Highlands (26-13) vs. Region Eight champion South Oldham (21-12)
This matchup is the third to feature two teams from adjacent regions, but the Bluebirds and Dragons did not play each other once during the regular season.
Highlands enters the state tournament with plenty of momentum after a 3-2 over archrival Covington Catholic for the region title, and the Bluebirds will look to reap the benefits of an experienced roster with 10 seniors.
Meanwhile South Oldham suffered a 9-8 loss to North Oldham in the 29thDistrict title game before handing the Mustangs a 5-2 defeat in the region title game the following week.
Region 15 champion Paintsville (25-12) vs. Region Two champion Christian County (20-12)
Paintsville and Christian County both have 12 losses on the year, but both of these teams were a dominating factor in their region to reach Lexington.
The Tigers posted a 16-3 mark in regional play while the Colonels went 16-1.
Two players that will stand out in this one for Christian County is pitchers Wyatt Stevenson and Lane Diuguid, who have recorded 75 and 76 strikeouts, respectively, this season.
Region 10 champion Campbell County (21-11) vs. Region One champion McCracken County (32-8)
This game could very well shape up to be an epic pitcher’s duel.
Campbell County has two pitchers that are more than capable of shutting the opponent down. Senior Luke Oehire is 21stin the state in ERA with a 1.13 while fellow senior Carson Werrmann ranks in the top 25 in the state in wins with a 7-1 record.
But McCracken County will produce two hurlers that top these statistics.
Brandon Dodd is 15thin the state with an ERA of 0.94 while Jacob Ehling is 17thwith an ERA of 0.99. Ehling is 8-1 on the year, and Dodd owns a 7-1 mark on the season.
—*A full preview of Bowling Green’s first-round game with 11th Region champion Madison Central will be posted early Friday morning.*