Exton strong but Eagles falter 1-0

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Sixth Region Baseball Tournament

By Mike Farner

 LOUISVILLE – A single run in the top of the fifth inning was the only offense in the game on Monday as Jeffersontown knocked off North Bullitt in the first round of the Sixth Region Baseball Tournament at Eastern High School.

The 1-0 loss was a bitter pill for North Bullitt to swallow as a perfect draw had set up the 23rd District Champions for a possible busy week.

Instead, the Eagles will have to consider what might have been after losing to the 24th District runners-up. It was the second one-run loss for the Eagles to Jeffersontown this season. The Chargers had beaten the Eagles 7-6 in eight innings back on March 23.

“It was disappointing,” North Bullitt head coach Brian Wise said later. “It was just not a good game for us from an offensive standpoint.”

North Bullitt junior pitcher Josh Exton threw a gem of a game as he allowed only three hits while recording nine strikeouts. The one run was unearned as North Bullitt made two errors.

“If you told me before the game that Josh would throw a complete game and give up one run, I would lost money thinking we would win that game,” Wise pointed out.

North Bullitt had only four hits and two of those were off the bat of designated hitter Cody Stinnett.

“There were three or four balls we stung, but they went right at them,” Wise recalled. “It was a frustrating way for the season to end.

“I am proud of what our guys accomplished,” the coach added. “It was just sad to see it end earlier than we had hoped.”

One of the only times that Jeffersontown put pressure on Exton was in the fifth inning. That frame started with a hit batter who then moved up on a sacrifice bunt. The runner got to third on a passed ball and then scored on a ground-out to shortstop.

Because he knew that his team would have to score to win the game at some point, Wise did not play his middle infielders in with the runner at third and one out. The groundout was hit in a way that there was no chance to get the runner at home.

“I did not play the infield in,” the coach said. “I felt that we had to score to win. That we’re not going to win with zero. I didn’t want to open things up to a big inning.

“I would like to have that opportunity back,” Wise noted. “At the time we still had three more innings to bat. I thought we would be fine.”

Despite only having the four hits, North Bullitt had multiple chances to score.

The first chance came in the first inning when both Clayton and Jacob Kelly were hit by pitches. An infield swinging bunt by Stinnett then loaded the bases. That threat ended with a strikeout.

North Bullitt then had leadoff singles in both the third and fourth inning. In the third inning, Anthony Kennedy reached third before a groundout ended that inning. There were runners on first and second in the fourth when a line drive was caught in right field.

Down by the run, North Bullitt got runners to second base in each of the last two innings. Mitchell Hutchison and Exton walked in the sixth with two out but the inning ended with a ground out. In the seventh, Kennedy was hit by a pitch and then stole second. With two outs, Clayton Kelly drove the ball into the right field gap, but the right fielder tracked the ball down to end the game.

Jeffersontown’s Chad Hagan was the winning pitcher. He did not throw against North Bullitt in the regular season meeting.

“He was throwing a lot of off speed stuff,” Wise said. “He did a good job changing speeds. He wasn’t overpowering, but he had us off balance. He struck out nine and had us fooled.”

North Bullitt ended the season with a 23-16 mark. The team had five seniors and all five started on Monday.

Jeffersontown advanced to face Butler in the Sixth Region semi-finals on Tuesday.