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FAIRDALE - It was the game everyone expected.
North Bullitt ace Matt Wagner versus Southern ace Reggie Young.
In a game in which one run might make the difference, the North Bullitt Eagles got that single run across the plate Wednesday to win 1-0 over the Trojans in the semifinals of the 24th District baseball tournament at Fairdale High School.
While Wagner and Young were mowing down batters, it was junior Aric Hester who came up with the big hit for the Eagles.
Cody Montgomery led off the bottom of the fifth inning with his second single of the game. Young appeared to get out of trouble with consecutive strikeouts as Montgomery advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Facing Hester, who has split time with the varsity and junior varsity, it was a battle of the juniors. On this occasion, it was Hester who lined a pitch to center field to plate the lone run of the game.
From that point on, it was all Wagner.
The senior, who is now 7-2 on the season, gave up only four hits and two walks on the day.
The closest any Southern player got to third base was on the final out of the game.
Scott Belt flew out to open the seventh inning but Cody Baker reached on a single to left. Justin Richey laid down a sacrifice bunt and was out at first base.
However, Baker tried to make something happen and attempted to advance to third. First baseman Doug Yates fired to third base to get Baker for the final out.
The victory advanced North Bullitt (20-10) to the district final against Bullitt East. Even though North Bullitt would lose 9-1 to the Chargers, both will advance to the Sixth Region tournament to start on Monday at St. Xavier High School.
"I expected it would be this type of game," said Wise. "I was just hoping we could come up with a run or two."
Young had beaten North Bullitt the previous week to end the Eagles' hopes for a top seed in the district.
This time, though, Young would face Wagner on the hill.
"You try to play one inning at a time," Wise said when facing such a quality pitcher. "We told the kids that we wanted to win each inning."
With Wagner on the hill, Wise said he feels very comfortable.
"I've got a lot of confidence in him," said Wise. "He's done a great job this season staying focused. Nothing has bothered him."
The senior has thrown several gems this year, including a perfect game and a combine no-hitter.
"He's done an excellent job every time he's been on the hill," said Wise.
The only time Wise felt a bit uncomfortable was in the third inning.
With one out, Richey's grounder turned into an error as Wagner dropped the ball covering first base. Matt West followed with a single to right as the umpire ruled that rightfielder Adam Zierten trapped the ball.
But with runners at first and second, Wagner struck out Young and got Alberto Perez to ground out.
A year ago, Wise said Wagner might have gotten upset with the error and let that affect his pitching. But this year that has not happened.
"He's worked real hard to improve," said Wise.
Admitting to being a bit nervous prior to the game, Wagner said he's getting used to pitching in close, low-scoring games.
Not pitching against the Trojans in the previous game gave Wagner time to do a little scouting.
"I wanted to get ahead of the batters," said Wagner. "I've had a lot more confidence this season."
He was confident that one of his teammates would get a big hit.
And that big hit came from Hester.
Looking fastball, Hester drilled the pitch past the centerfielder.
"I feel confident at the plate," said Hester. "We should have scored a few more runs but we knew it would be a close game."
This isn't the first time Hester has stepped up for the Eagles. He had two hits in the upset of Trinity earlier this season.
"It was huge," Wise said of the hit. "Otherwise, we might still be playing."
Wise said Hester probably should have seen a little more varsity action as he has been swinging the bat well.
"I've got a lot of confidence in Aric," said Wise. "And he's got a lot of confidence."
For the game, both teams had four hits and North Bullitt committed the lone error.
"It was a very well played game," said Wise. "It was good baseball."