Franklin-Simpson is back in the Region 4 finals for the first time since 2007.
The Wildcats (30-5) used an all-around performance to beat Warren East, 3-2, in the Region 4 tournament semifinals Tuesday at Western Kentucky University's Nick Denes Field.
Franklin finished with five hits on the evening and had 5 different players record at least one hit. Starting pitcher Rylan Thomas threw six complete innings and allowed five hits and finished with six strikeouts.
"(Warren East) beat me earlier in the season and I had to come out and get revenge," Thomas said. "My defensive was great behind me, of course, and I feel like I pitched a great game tonight."
East trailed 3-0 entering the seventh - and in that inning scored twice to climb back within one. However, a strikeout ended the game and the Wildcats survived.
"That was a great ballgame - just like we expected," Franklin-Simpson head coach Kyle Gammons said. "Those guys are coached well. We were expecting a ballgame tonight. We did enough offensively to scratch a few runs across there early and take a little pressure off of us. Rylan Thomas did a great job; he's a competitor. He came out and competed."
After a scoreless inning of baseball, Franklin-Simpson grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second.
With Dawson Gardner on after hitting a single, Quentin Kitchens sent a ball into center field and Warren East couldn't control it. As Kitchens reached on the error, Gardner ran from first and crossed the plate to put the Wildcats up.
The Raiders' offense had a pair of batters reach in the top of the fourth, but neither could cross the plate. Ty Stringfield singled and pitcher Ryan Hawks reached on an error, but Rylan Thomas retired the ensuing hitters to get out of the jam and strand the two.
After East couldn't capitalize, Franklin added to its advantage with a two-run bottom frame. Hunter Janes led off the set with a single and Gardner reached on a fielder's choice. With the pair on, Clay Spears came to the plate and send a ball into the outfield to score both runners - earning a pair of RBI. Hawks responded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning, but the Raiders still trailed 3-0.
Austin Hymer singled and Davion Downey was intentionally walked to begin the fifth, but Warren East again struggled to get its baserunners home. Similar to the Raiders, the Wildcats had a pair reach in the bottom part of the set, but neither would score - but Franklin still had a three-run lead.
Warren East brought its cheering section to their feet in the seventh, as it plated a pair of runs to get to within a single run. Down 3-0, pinch-hitter Matt Mellencamp singled and fellow pinch-hitter Colson Elkins reached on an error to give the Raiders a pair of runners.
"It was a great job," Gammons said of Warren East's comeback. "Those guys started to hit a little bit. Rylan ran out of gas and gave up the leadoff hit and next thing you know its bases loaded and arguably the best hitter in the state (Downey) is up. But we were able to get out of there with just a sac fly to get two outs on the board.
"We had to get another great hitter out in Ryan Hawks there at the end - and our guy came out on the top of the battle that time."
Soon after, with the bases loaded, Chauncey Greer was walked in before a sacrifice fly by Ty Stringfield suddenly made it a 3-2 affair. Although East had rallied, a strikeout resulted as the third out and Franklin survived and advanced.
The Wildcats will now meet Logan County on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the championship.
"They're a great baseball team," stated Thomas of Logan County. "They're all my friends, I love those dudes. We compete all the time and I love them to death, but I'm ready to play them tomorrow."Tyler Mansfield; @TheTMansfield