Bobbled balls in the infield, dropped pop-ups, wild pitches, passed balls, errant throws and base-running gaffes all added up to a 5-3 loss Monday at Butler County as the Whitesville Trinity Raiders ended the Cougars’ baseball season in the opening round of the 12th District Tournament.
Team records on the KHSAA website only go back as far as the 1998 season, but in all that time the Cougars had never failed to make it to the 3rd Region Tournament. Twice they made it to the final game, but lost both times. Memory fails to come up with a time when the Cougars were not in the regionals.
Trinity scored three times in the first four innings of the game against starter and loser Gage Akridge, but the Cougars tied the game on a clutch, two-out, two-run single by Riley Mudd in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Raiders then took the lead back in the top of the seventh when shortstop Drew Mills blasted a two-run home run.
Akridge was once again a hard-luck loser, actually pitching well enough to win a game, only to have to suffer defeat. He allowed just five hits in his seven innings of work and struck out 11 Raider batters. None of the runs he allowed was earned, and Mills would not have come to bat in the seventh inning but for the Cougars’ seventh error of the game.
At the plate, the Cougars managed only six hits off Trinity starter and winner Allen Howe, who walked two and struck out five.
The Raiders threatened to score in the first inning when leadoff batter Daniel Howard walked and moved to third on a pair of passed-balls by Cougar catcher Parker Cain. But Akridge struck out both Daniel Morris and John Gibson, then got Mills to pop out to Mudd in left field to end the threat.
The Cougars also threatened in the first, but failed to score. Back-to-back singles by Hunter Young and Landon Nichols put runners at first and second before a Jack Davis sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third. But Howe struck out Cain and Hunter Shiarella to end the inning.
The Raiders scored the first run of the game in the third inning when Jack Goetz reached on a leadoff error. Howard hit a little ground ball back to Akridge on the mound, who threw to Nichols at second for the first out, but Nichols’ return throw to first pulled Davis off the bag and Howard was safe.
Morris singled to put runners at first and second. Akridge them uncorked a pair of wild pitches, allowing Howard to bring in the unearned run.
The Raiders scored two more unearned runs in the fourth inning to grab a 3-0 lead. Blake Booker led off and should have been out when he popped a pitch into foul territory behind the plate. Cain misjudged the ball and it fell safely for a strike. Cain was charged with an error when Booker later singled up the middle.
Howe came up and also hit a pop-up in foul territory. Davis tracked the pop in front of the Trinity dugout, but over-ran the ball and had it fall out of his glove. Davis was also charged with an error when Howe later singled to put two men on.
Akridge struck out Blake Midkiff for the first out, bringing up DH Andrew Hagan, who laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt. Akridge was able to get to the ball along the third-base line and had time to get a force at third base, but when he bobbled the ball, his throw to third was not in time to get Booker.
Akridge should have been out of the inning when he got Goetz to pop-up, but instead the inning continued for Howard, whose little pop fly behind second base fell in for a hit as two runs scored. Akridge struck out Daniel Morris to end the inning.
Grayson County put a runner at second base with two outs in the fourth, but Howe struck out Mudd to end the inning.
The Cougars finally broke through against Howe in the bottom of the sixth. Young led off and lined a double into the gap in right-center. Nichols followed by hitting a ball to short and for some reason, Young tried to advance to third on the play, but was cut down easily by Mills.
Davis walked and Cain was plunked by a Howe pitch to load the bases with just one out, and Zac Johnson replaced Cain on the bases. Shiarella grounded out to third-baseman Dylan Wright, but Nichols was able to score on the play and Davis and Johnson moved up to second and third.
That brought up Mudd, who worked the count full before ripping a line-drive single to left to plate both runners and tie the game at 3-3, much to the delight of the Cougar fans on hand.
But that elation was short-lived as the Raiders went back in front to stay in the top of the seventh. Howard led off by hitting a grounder to third which was mishandled by Shiarella for an error. Morris hit a come-backer to Akridge and he was able to get a force at second.
Gibson popped out to Young at short for what should have been the final out of the inning, but instead, Mills came up and hit the first pitch he saw high over the fence in left to put his team in front 5-3.
Akridge then got Booker on a pop-up to Davis at first to end the inning, but the damage had been done.
In the bottom of the seventh, DH Jacob Vincent and center-fielder Chandler England went out quickly on ground balls to Howard at second, but Young lined a single to left, his third hit of the day. Nichols then hit a little ground ball to Howard, who tagged out Young for the final out of the game.
Trinity (12-16) will face Butler County (13-22) in Wednesday’s District Final. The Bears advanced with a 10-2 win over Edmonson County (18-11) in the second game. Grayson County ends the season with a record of 9-19.
Reach Don Brown at 259-9622, ext. 2016.