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Panthers rally to District championship
9-7 win caps Carroll 'triple crown'
, Courier Sportswriter
Saturday, May 24, 2014 5:00 AM
Carroll County’s baseball team (above) finished off the “triple crown” on Friday, adding a 31st District championship to its All “A” Classic and NCKC titles. Kiefer McIntyre does his best to hold coach Jimmy Ray (below, 10) in place as teammates douse the coach with cooler of water. Carroll defeated Owen County 9-7 to win the title. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
NEW CASTLE, Ky. - Carroll County weathered the near 48-hour rain delay with ease, scoring seven runs over the final three innings to rally past Owen County 9-7 and claim the 31st District baseball championship on Friday.
The Panthers were trailing 5-3 in the fourth inning on Wednesday when heavy rain and storms forced the game to be postponed. Those rains made the field unplayable on Thursday and pushed the game back a day.
When Carroll took the field on a picture-perfect Friday, the Panthers inherited a bases-loaded situation with no outs. Justin Ray opened the second day of action with a sacrifice fly to score a run and Austin Dunn followed with an RBI single to tie the score 5-5.
The play of the game might have come on the next batter when Zakk Hicks hit a short pop-up in foul territory near the Owen County dugout and Rebel first baseman Joey Cox collided with catcher Austin Fitzgerald while catching the ball and both players went down.
Carroll's Jacob Wise, who was on third, inched slowly off the bag and seeing nobody covering home, sprinted to the plate for the go-ahead run.
"That was a heads-up play. We were trying to be quiet about it but I'm not that quiet of a guy," Carroll head coach Jimmy Ray, who was coaching third, smiled. "But Jacob is as fast as there is out there. Nobody was going to catch him."
Carroll County (20-12) added a run in the fifth when Boo Donahue laced a single into right to score pinch runner Tyler Stewart and put the Panthers ahead 7-5.
The lead didn't last long. Jacob Harris and Trevor Smith opened the sixth inning for Owen by drawing back-to-back walks and Carroll pitcher John Michael Adams was on the verge of getting out of the inning when shortstop Austin Crowell allowed a potential inning-ending double-play go between his legs. The error led to one run and Nolan Tackett singled in another run to tie the game 7-7.
"Every time we got the lead today, we'd walk the leadoff batter or hit the leadoff batter," Coach Ray said. "We gave them probably every run they had on errors and walks. Every batter we walked scored. It made me lose my patience a little."
But Carroll County never blinked. Justin Ray led off the sixth with a single and Kiefer McIntyre walked. After McIntyre stole second, Seth Hicks scored both with a double down the right-field line to put the Panthers back on top 9-7.
Adams, who relieved starter Seth Hicks in the fourth on Wednesday and came back to take the mound on Friday, mowed through the Rebels in the seventh to secure the win. The big senior struck out the first two batters and then got Josh Spaulding to ground to second where Zakk Hicks made a good defense play to end the game.
"John Adams came up big for us," Ray said. "I was never worried about this game because we had our senior on the mound and he makes plays. He's a leader and I knew he would pull us through."
Owen (14-16) opened the scoring in the top of the first on Wednesday. Fitzgerald drew a one-out walk and Jared Ball followed with a deep triple to right. Ball very well may have scored on the play but he was forced to slow down in order to not pass Fitzgerald on the bases.
Justin Ray drew a one-out walk in the third and Zakk Hicks followed with a two-out double. A wild pitch allowed Ray to tie the game 1-1.
McIntyre followed Hicks' hit by drawing a walk. He then intentionally drew the Owen defense to him on a steal attempt to allow Hicks enough time to run home and score the go-ahead run.
Seth Hicks' control failed him in the fourth when he hit the leadoff batter. Then, after getting a strikeout, he walked the next batter and a wild pitch allowed both to move up.
Spaulding hit a come-backer to Hicks at the mound and the pitcher alertly threw home in an attempt to nail the runner but catcher Dunn dropped the ball allowing Owen to tie the game.
Another wild pitch led to a run and another walk spelled the end of Hicks' day on the mound. Adams relieved him and promptly walked the next batter to load the bases. Ball then drove in two runs with a double to left to put Owen ahead 5-2.
The Panthers got a leadoff walk by Will Wallace and a single from Adams in the bottom of the fourth. Donahue then laid down a sacrifice bunt that Owen pitcher Cameron McAnally fielded and threw to first. But nobody covered the bag and the throw sailed into right field allowing Carroll pinch runner Alex Burns to score and cut the lead to 5-3.
The next batter, Wise, walked to load the bases and Owen was in the process of making a pitching change when lightning was spotted to the north of the field and the game was suspended.
Adams, who was named to the all-tournament team, picked up the win with three and a third innings of relief. Adams walked four but struck out five and allowed three runs on two hits. Only one of the runs were earned.
Seth Hicks pitched the first three and two-third innings and allowed four runs - two earned - on one hit with six strikeouts and five walks. All seven of Owen's runs came from batters who reached on walks.
Zakk Hicks and Seth Hicks each had doubles while McIntyre, Adams, Dunn, Donahue and Ray had one hit each. Ray scored twice and McIntyre stole two bases.
Tackett took the loss for Owen after giving up two runs on two hits with a strikeout and a walk in one inning of relief. McAnally started the game on Wednesday and came back to pitch two more innings on Friday and allowed seven runs - five earned - on five hits with five strikeouts and six walks.
Ball had two of Owen's three hits and drove in three runs. Tackett had a hit and an RBI and Trevor Smith scored twice.
Adams, McIntyre and both Hicks brothers were named to the All-Tournament team from Carroll County while Tackett, Ball and Jacob Harris earned the honor from Owen. The rest of the team is: Eminence's Austin Jones; Gallatin County's Joe Sargent and Nolan Wilson; and Henry County's Bradley West and Landon New.
The win clinches the "triple crown" for Carroll, a rare feat in which the Panthers won the All "A" Classic Eighth Region, North Central Kentucky Conference and 31st District championships in the same season. The Panthers' focus is now on winning the Eighth Region tourney, which will begin on Monday at Henry County High School. The draw is today.
"We've not been playing as well since the All 'A' but hopefully this will get us going," Coach Ray said. "We won the triple crown for just the second time in school history and it's always one of our goals. Now we've got a chance to hopefully do something in the regional. You never know. It's a whole lot better going into the region as a winner than a loser."
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