SMOKIN’ ACES: Madison senior ace Ryan Thurston (below) fired a two-hit shutout to beat Seymour’s Zack Brown in a matchup of future Division I pitchers. The Cubs eeked out a run in the third when Xavier Barnes beat the tag of catcher Seth Gorman (above) as Brown backed up the play and umpire Scott Davidson made the call. The unearned run was the only one scored against the University of Kentucky-bound Brown. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
SMOKIN’ ACES: Madison senior ace Ryan Thurston (below) fired a two-hit shutout to beat Seymour’s Zack Brown in a matchup of future Division I pitchers. The Cubs eeked out a run in the third when Xavier Barnes beat the tag of catcher Seth Gorman (above) as Brown backed up the play and umpire Scott Davidson made the call. The unearned run was the only one scored against the University of Kentucky-bound Brown. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
The expected showdown between two Division I caliber baseball pitchers proved to be anticlimatic after Madison scored eight runs in the bottom of the sixth to blow away Seymour 10-0 at home on Monday.

Western Kentucky-bound Ryan Thurston of Madison and Kentucky signee Zack Brown of Seymour lived up their advanced billing through four innings with each working a one-hitter.

But Brown exited the game in the fourth inning due to an apparent pitch count and the Cubs took advantage by pounding the Owl bullpen to claim third place in the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament.

"Third place in this conference is pretty impressive, especially this year," Madison coach Shannon Barger said. "Floyd Central is the No. 1 team in the state, Jeffersonville is top 10 and just beat Floyd, New Albany is 11th. And when Zack Brown pitches, Seymour can beat anybody. We're pretty happy with this finish."

Madison battled Jeffersonville to a 1-0 setback in eight innings in the semifinals last week and had to wait three days to play the third-place game due to rain.

The Cubs' reward was a date against Brown, the flame-throwing right-hander who is one of the best pitchers in the state.

For the most part Brown lived up to that billing. His big downfall was control and walks led to the only run Madison scored off of him.

Xavier Barnes worked a walk out of Brown for the second time with one out in the third and promptly stole second before a wild pitch sent Barnes to third.

Another wild pitch, this time on a ball four to Logan Kleopfer, set off a chain of events that led to the Cubs' first run. Barnes broke for the plate on the pitch but reconsidered and scrambled back to third. The throw from catcher Seth Gorman sailed over the third-baseman's head and Barnes again headed for home, just beating the throw and the tag for the only run the Cubs would ultimately need in Thurston's shutout.

It was the only damage done against Brown, who exited the game an inning later after issuing his fourth walk of the game.

"(Seymour) didn't think he was safe (at home) but we'll take it," Barger said. "We had a lot of good at-bats against Brown and were very patient."

As strong as Brown was, Thurston out-dueled him. The lefty, who fired a no-hitter two weeks ago, allowed a sharp single by Logan Richey to open the game and then sat down the next 15 batters in a row.

Holden Fleetwood singled to open the sixth to end Thurston's streak but the senior promptly picked him off base and then grounded out the next two batters.

Overall Thurston struck out eight, including five straight at one point, without issuing a walk.

"Ryan threw great. He seemed to be in control the entire way and only threw 71 pitches in six innings. That's pretty impressive," Barger said. "He didn't fall behind the batters and had everything working."

With the way Thurston was dealing, the Cubs needed only the one run, but they played add-on anyway. Kleopfer's sacrifice fly scored pinch-runner Alex Risk in the fifth to put Madison ahead 2-0.

Madison's big inning was the sixth when Fleetwood dropped a leadoff fly ball to left and things got worse for Seymour when reliever Billy Rayburn walked five batters - the last two with the bases loaded.

Thurston and Derek Anderson hit back-to-back two-run doubles to push the lead to 10 and end the game on the mercy rule.

Thanks to 10 walks and two errors, Madison needed only six hits to produce its 10 runs. Ethan Leach had two of the hits and also scored a run to go with an RBI. Tanner Sauley added a double and Barnes officially was 0-for-0 but drew four walks and scored twice.

Since starting the season by losing eight of its first nine games, Madison has gone on a 9-5 run that includes a stretch where the Cubs have played some of the best teams in the area.

"I told the guys that if we just keep beating the schools that I have been a part of we'll be all right," Barger, who played at Seymour, said with a smile. "We're really playing with a lot of confidence right now and we're getting contributions from a lot of different people rather than just a couple like in the beginning of the season. We like where we're at right now."

Madison faces Jeffersonville in a rematch today on the road.