WELL DONE: Carroll County catcher Austin Dunn (left) and pitcher Zakk Hicks shake hands after working Monday’s 2-1 8th Region baseball tourney win over Grant County in New Castle, Ky. The Panthers play Anderson County in the regional semifinals today at Henry County High School. (Staff photo by David Hill)
WELL DONE: Carroll County catcher Austin Dunn (left) and pitcher Zakk Hicks shake hands after working Monday’s 2-1 8th Region baseball tourney win over Grant County in New Castle, Ky. The Panthers play Anderson County in the regional semifinals today at Henry County High School. (Staff photo by David Hill)
NEW CASTLE, Ky. - Carroll County pitcher Zakk Hicks worked out of several jams to lead his Panthers to a 2-1 victory over Grant County in the opening round of the Eighth Region Tournament at Henry County High School on Monday.

The Panthers scored the game's first run in the opening inning and added an all-important insurance run in the fifth that proved to be the game-winner, as Grant scored its only run in the sixth.

"It feels really good to pick up a win today," said Carroll County head coach Jimmy Ray. "We came out early and got a run, they had some hits against us but our defense made some good plays out there.

"Their pitcher (Jason Goe) is among the best in the region," the coach continued. "It was huge we were able to score on him late in the game, especially since they plated a run in the sixth."

Justin Ray led off the Panther first with a base hit and advanced to second on an Austin Dunn single. Hicks grounded out to advance Ray to third and Keifer McIntyre scored Ray on a base hit.

Both pitchers settled down after the first inning. Hicks allowed just three hits while striking out six through the fifth inning and Goe struck out five between the second and fifth innings.

The Panthers took their 1-0 lead into the fifth. Jacob Wise was hit by a pitch to open the inning, survived a botched pick-off attempt, was sacrificed to third by Ray and scored on an error by the first baseman.

Pitcher Jason Goe led off the Grant County (14-20) sixth with a base hit and promptly stole second. The next batter, Conrad Jasonette, lashed a single to score Goe and make it a one-run game.

Jasonette made it to third via a steal and sacrifice bunt, but was stranded when Hicks toughened up on the mound.

Each team had baserunners in their last at-bats, but neither team scored. Hicks made a key play after Brennen Dills walked to lead off the seventh. On a nubber hit to the mound, Hicks threw to second for the force-out.

"That was a gutsy play but it worked," Ray said. "You can always go for the sure out at first base in that situation, but be mindful of other options."

The game ended when Austin Johnson flied to Ray in center field.

"I thought we did a good job of hustling out there today." Ray said. "I saw it especially on the basepaths. If (Jacob) isn't hustling in that run-down, we don't get our second run."

Carroll County (21-12) now sets its sights on Anderson County (16-13), a surprise 7-3 winner over South Oldham in Monday's opener. They'll hook up at 6 p.m. today.

In other quarterfinal games from Monday, Collins defeated North Oldham 4-0 and Simon Kenton beat Owen County 5-1. Collins (28-3) and Simon Kenton (20-16) play in the second semifinal today.

Ray had words of wisdom to his team following the win.

"Be happy with today's win but don't be content," he told the team. "We've got to get to the top. If we can play good defense, throw strikes and get bunts down, we can be in there.

"Anderson County is a good team but there's no reason we can't compete if we put it together."