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SHEPHERDSVILLE - For the rest of the summer, members of the North Bullitt baseball team will pinch themselves and then smile, realizing that they really did beat bitter rival Southern 5-4 on Wednesday in the semi-finals of the 24th District Tournament at Bullitt Central.
The Eagles trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but managed to get runners to second and third with two outs. That brought Jesse King to the plate and he quickly fell behind 1-2 to Southern pitcher Cody Masterson. Just trying to stay alive, King reached out and just tried to foul the next pitch off. The ball popped up to first base, but somehow the ball dropped out of the glove of the Southern first baseman.
Marcel Hull came home with the first run and freshman Clayton Kelly raced all the way home from second with the tying run. Kelly had to slide around the tag to tie the game.
After Travis Ridley mowed down Southern in the top of the eighth, North Bullitt junior T.J. Barr lined a shot to the centerfield fence for a double that set the stage for a final chess match. Ridley made the first move when he sacrificed Barr to third.
Southern then countered by intentionally walking by Cody Montgomery and then Hull, bringing Kelly to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. The final move belonged to North Bullitt head coach Brian Wise who called for Kelly to suicide squeeze. Kelly got the ball down and Southern’s pitcher could not flip the ball to the plate before Barr slid home with the tying run.
“It was a suicide squeeze all the way,” Wise said later. “We were fortunate to still be playing at that point. We wanted to get out of there. Clayton is a terrific bunter.
“It was a tough spot for a freshman,” the coach added. “As the home team we had the chance. It worked out.”
Kelly, Barr and Wise might have been the only people in the park who knew the squeeze was on. Barr had been lifted for a pinch-runner three innings earlier and then re-entered, but he had to stay on the field this time. During the intentional walks, Wise had given the junior the heads up to be looking for the suicide squeeze sign.
North Bullitt really stole the victory with the dropped pop-up in the seventh.
“It truly was a baseball miracle,” Wise said. “That’s a play that kid will make 999 out of a thousand times. Our guys, especially Clayton, did what we talk about in running things out. He was running hard from second.”
North Bullitt had an early lead in the game after scoring a run in the bottom of the first. Barr walked and after Ridley moved him to second, Hull plated the run with a single.
Southern got two runs in the top of the fifth with the help of a North Bullitt mental error and after the Eagles tied it at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Trojans scored single runs in each of the next two innings to set up the big finish.
The run in the fifth came when Barr walked and then pinch-runner Forest Miller went to second when Ridley was hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch, Hull walked to load the bases. Miller then scored on a passed ball.
The seventh inning started with Hull doubling and then Southern made a pitching change. Hull moved up on a passed ball and then Kelly walked. Cody Stinnett followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Kelly to second, but a strike-out made it two outs with King coming to the plate.
Montgomery was the starting pitcher for North Bullitt and worked six innings, allowing four hits and only one earned run. Ridley then came on and pitched the final two innings and got the victory as he allowed just one hit.
BE Rolls Tuesday
To the surprise of no one, the Bullitt East Chargers turned back Bullitt Central 11-1 in five innings of the first tournament semi-final on Tuesday.
All-State pitcher Brandon Alphin needed just 60 pitches to tame the Cougars. Bullitt Central did collect three hits and the run in the top of the fourth was earned.
Bullitt East scored twice in the bottom of the first off Bullitt Central starter Sheldon Hoagland and then broke the game open with five runs in the third frame as they were helped by two Cougar errors. The final four runs then scored in the fifth inning, stopping the game when the margin got to ten runs.
“We talked back on Feb. 15 that we would play a tough schedule and didn’t want anyone sneaking up on us,” Bullitt East head coach Jeff Bowles said. “I thought we were focused and we had a good practice yesterday.
“This group expected to be the number one seed,” the coach added. “That’s what we work for.”
The loss brought an end to what was a much improved season for the Cougars, a team that had won its three previous contests. Bullitt East was just a better team.
“My hats are off to them,” Bullitt Central head coach Tommy Alvey said. “I felt like we were not mentally prepared. I wish we could take away that third inning. We threw it around and gave them four runs.”