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HEBRON ESTATES – A throw over third base in the bottom of the eighth inning allowed a run to score as the North Bullitt Eagles pulled out a 2-1 victory over Bullitt Central on Monday.
The game had been pushed back a week because of bad weather the previous Monday, but the wait was worth it as the two county rivals and 23rd District combatants put on a classic battle that wasn’t decided until the final moment.
The win also gave North Bullitt the number seed for the 23rd District Tournament will start in two weeks. Bullitt Central has the number two seed for the event that will be played on the Cougars’ home field.
The bottom of the eighth for the Eagles started with junior Jacob Kelly doubling to the base of the fence in centerfield off starting pitcher Cameron Dukes. That was it for Dukes who was coming off a three up, three down seventh inning against the top of the Eagle line-up.
That brought senior Jayme Curtis in from shortstop and he got senior catcher Chance Egnor to get a check-swing roller down the first base line that did manage to get pinch-runner Austin Trammell to third base. Bullitt Central head coach G.J. Moore then waved Josh Exton to first on the intentional walk.
Both teams then called time-outs to talk over the situation. North Bullitt opted to send Exton to second on the first pitch to Blake Benz. Bullitt Central catcher Tyler Bray looked to second and then threw toward third as Trammell scurried back. The throw was high and rolled down the left field line, allowing Trammell to easily trot home with the winning run.
“We felt like they would give us second base,” North Bullitt head coach Brian Wise said. “We wanted to take it and see what they would do. We told Austin to be ready if they threw it away.
“We were trying to start something there,” the coach added. “Sometimes you guess right and get a break.”
Bullitt Central head coach G.J. Moore, who was once an assistant coach with Wise, didn’t want to put everything on the final play. He pointed out that his team had missed on a number of scoring opportunities in earlier innings.
“We battled through the whole game,” the veteran coach said. “They had opportunities early and we got out of it. We had runners in scoring position and didn’t convert.
“Then things happened there at the end,” the coach added. “We may have let him (Dukes) in for one too many batters.”
It has been an up and down season for the Cougars (8-14) and they had played just one game in the previous ten days, but they showed that they will be a tough out in the post-season.
“It was a good game,” Moore said. “There is nothing to complain about. We showed that we could compete.”
For most of the game, Bullitt Central could not catch up with North Bullitt’s Exton, the Eagles’ starting pitcher. Exton worked the first seven innings and struck out 14 Cougar batters. The first time through the line-up, Exton struck out seven of the nine Cougar batters.
Finally, after 115 pitches, Wise pulled Exton in favor of senior Darren Johnson. Johnson did give up a single to Dukes, but then got two strike-outs to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Wise had re-entered Exton for Johnson so if the Eagles had not scored, they would have inserted a third pitcher for the ninth inning.
North Bullitt (16-9) scored first, getting a run in the third inning. Egnor had led off that frame with a single and moved up when Exton walked. Wise then inserted Trammell as the courtesy runner for the pitcher. After Benz moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt, Dalton Walls lined a shot right at first baseman Justin Rippy, leaving the runners at second and third.
That brought Keaton Reitz, the number nine hitter to the plate, and the sophomore hit the ball back up the middle where it handcuffed Curtis at shortstop. Egnor raced home with the first run, but Bullitt Central centerfielder Michael Harris made a perfect throw to the plate where Bray got the tag on the sliding Trammell.
North Bullitt put more pressure on Dukes in the third inning, loading the bases with just one out after a walk to Justin Stinson and back-to-back singles from Logan Wyatt and Kelly. Dukes got out of that jam by getting Egnor to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Bullitt Central got a runner to second base in the second inning and in the fourth inning, Curtis and Bray had led off the inning with singles and then moved up on a bunt, but Exton got two strikeouts to get out of the difficulties.
Bullitt Central finally broke through in the fifth inning when Rippy singled. Logan Koch was inserted as a pinch runner and he moved to second on Colin Trent’s sacrifice bunt. After the second out moved Koch to third, Kevin McKnight walked to put runners on the corners.
The Cougars started McKnight on the steal attempt, drawing Eagle shortstop Justin Stinson toward the bag. Curtis took advantage of that, lining a shot into the hole left by Stinson to drive home Koch with the tying run.
Both teams had only five hits in the game. The only extra base hit for either team was the double by Kelly to start the eighth inning. Curtis was the only hitter in the game with more than one hit as he collected a pair of singles.
Bullitt Central did leave nine runners on base, the same number as North Bullitt.
“It wasn’t very pretty from an offensive standpoint,” Wise noted. “That is the way it is here sometimes. It’s tough to score a lot of runs here when the wind blows like it was today.
“You have to give credit to Dukes. We had trouble getting the bat on the ball,” the winning coach pointed out. “At this point our number one goal was to be the number one seed for the district tournament and that is accomplished. We’ll take it and move on.”
For Bullitt Central, the previous week was pretty short as the team on got on the field for one game. That came on Friday when the Cougars did not play well and lost a game on the road to Campbellsville 7-1.
Nic Caswell was the starting pitcher for the Cougars and he went four innings, but he did not get much help from his offense.
“We didn’t play well that day at all,” Moore said. “We looked as rusty as you would expect from a team that was playing just one game in a week.”