Purples claim second region title in three years
Bowling Green suffered a heart-breaking loss to South Warren in last Thursday’s 14thDistrict championship game, and on Saturday morning the Purples learned that they were to face 13thDistrict champion and region favorite Logan County in the first round of the Fourth Region Tournament.
Yet despite all of this, it was the Purples who were crowned champions of the Fourth Region on Thursday night at Western Kentucky University’s Nick Denes Field.
The Purples exploded for seven runs in the top of the fourth, and sophomore pitcher Charlie Key tossed a complete game shutout on the way to a 14-0, run-rule victory over 16thDistrict champion Russell County to claim the region title for the second time in three years.
“It feels amazing,” Bowling Green senior Will Garske said. “I was here my sophomore year, and it was a mission to get back here my senior year. We did it, and I couldn’t be happier.”
“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Bowling Green coach Matt Myers said. “I had the five seniors in my office earlier this year, and I asked them what their goals were. For them to do this when no one—not even anybody on our own side—didn’t think we could do it. For them to do it and just the way they did it this week…I’m just so happy for them.”
Bowling Green outscored its opponents 35-2 in the Fourth Region Tournament, defeating Logan County 9-0 in the first round and Cumberland County 12-2 in the semifinals before the convincing 14-run victory over the Lakers.
Two factors pushed the Purples to be the dominating team that was on display this past week at Nick Denes Field.
The first was the “Playing for Mason” game back on April 26, which is when the Purples cruised to a 13-2 victory over host Greenwood. That emotional night that remembered the young Mason Goodnight was a turning point for Bowling Green as the Purples have won 13 of 16 games since that point after entering that game against the Gators with a record of just 7-8.
“It’s so easy for kids nowadays to be selfish and about themselves,” Myers said. “They just bought into something that was bigger than them, and they saw that night that special things can happen when you do it.”
Part of the reason for the Purples’ lackluster record early on was a tough schedule, but playing some of the most stellar opponents in Kentucky and Tennessee is what made the Purples mentally tough and ultimately region champions.
“That’s why we tried to push them with the schedule, the adversity and putting them into failure situations,” Myers said. “Look how they’ve responded. They’re a completely different team now and they’re more mature. I’m just speechless.”
“We worked through it,” Garske said. “We stayed together, we never gave up, and now I got the trophy in my hand.”
Key earned the win on the mound for the Purples, allowing just four hits and two hits while striking out four in a five-inning complete game shutout.
“Charlie was really cooking,” Myers said. “He threw a lot of strikes, and our offense put them into a tough situation early.”
The Purples pounded out 14 runs on 10 hits, eight walks, and two Laker errors against seven different pitchers to hand Russell County (26-8) its first loss to a Fourth Region opponent this season.
Bowling Green (20-11) will now face the 11thRegion champion in the first round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament next Friday night in Lexington.
The Purples drew first blood in the top of the second by posting two runs on a pair of hits.
Evan Spader laid down a perfect drag bunt down the third base line for the Purples’ first hit of the night, and the sophomore came around to score the game’s first run after fellow sophomore Jeffrey Ross belted a triple to the gap in left center.
Bo Morton grounded into a fielder’s choice, but the throw home to get Ross was not in time as the Purples extended their lead to 2-0.
Bowling Green continued to pour it on in the top of the third on a 2-RBI double to the corner in left by Trevor Dennis that scored Will Garske and Joe Howard as the Purples pushed their lead to 4-0.
Ross then showed his power at the plate for the second straight inning, lining yet another triple—this time to right center—to score Dennis and Spader and give the Purples a commanding 6-0 advantage after three.
“I just waited for my pitch and tried to be selective at the plate,” Ross said. “That’s what I did.”
“He’s been incredible in the postseason,” Garske said. “He’s been really hot offensively, and that’s big time for us.”
Howard increased Bowling Green’s lead in the top of the fourth by smacking a 2-RBI single to center to score Jay Buser and Garske, and Howard came around to score on a Laker error to push the lead to 9-0.
But that was only the beginning.
Ross drew a walk to load up the bases with still nobody out, and Bo Morton followed with a bases-loaded walk to put the Purples into double digits.
Eli Burwash laced a 2-RBI single into left to make it 12-0, and Bowling Green pushed its lead to 13-0 when Buser hit a sacrifice fly to right to score courtesy runner Scottie Brown.
The Lakers had a scoring opportunity with runners at second and third in the bottom of the fourth, but Key struck out Henry Bertram to leave the runners stranded.
The Purples tacked on one more run in the top of the fifth on Bo Morton’s groundout that scored Jackson Stahl, and Key set the Lakers down in order in the bottom half of the frame to send the Purples back to Lexington.
“We’re pretty confident,” Garske said. “Our offense is really good, we all love our teammates, and we’re going to go out there and give them a fight.”