5th Region Baseball Tournament
It took awhile. Close to 14 years to be precise, but the LaRue County Hawks eventually won the 5th Region Baseball Tournament despite one of the longest waits in Region Tourney history. After the dust cleared, it was the Hawks and the Bruins of Central Hardin in the Championship in what appeared to be a rematch of 2012 opponents. In that one, Central Hardin pulled out a nail-bitter in a championship game which took nearly three days to complete, 4-2. This time, the two teams combined for a classic matchup that saw 20-run, several lead changes, some dramatic play calling, a grand slam that counted for only three runs and an end to one of the longest droughts for a Hawk team.

The 11-9 win was a perfect example of a team finding a way to win all season when the odds and sometimes the opponent is going against them after losing a talented senior class the previous season and having another valuable starter not return. The game started with a bang when Noah Davis hit a home run with the bases loaded, but only three of the runs counted when it was ruled that a runner missed second and was called out. The Bruins got two back in the bottom of the second inning and matched the Hawks three-run third inning with three of their own chasing starter Gavin Nall and in came Jacob Gentry, who got through a scoreless fourth, but gave up three runs in the fourth although several were unearned to trail 8-7. That’s when things got really interesting on an error in the outfield and an infield single with one out.

Freshman Daniel Snodgrass walked to load the bases and then Dalton Skaggs lined a sharply hit single that scored two runs and reclaimed the lead for the Hawks and then they added on to it on singles by Dane Milby and Ty Morris to make it 11-8. Gentry and the defense did the rest although the Bruins did get a run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to two, the final Bruin flied out to end the game, the celebration that was long in waiting ensued. Maybe it wasn’t the best 5th Region Tournament in history in terms of quality and it was certainly the longest taking a total of seven days to complete, but it was most certainly the most interesting and one team left on the wrong side of the score while the other found a way to win and will advance to Lexington on Thursday Night at 8:30 against Boyle County.

Cardiac HAWKS! Although LaRue County won the Tournament, they came perilously close to watching the Championship game from the stands after a close call with Campbellsville the previous night. Trailing 4-3 going into the bottom of the seventh, all looked lost for everyone, but the Hawks. Noah Davis didn’t think so and he drew a walk and so did Bryson Cobb putting runners at first and second, then th fun really began when Daniel Snodgrass hit a liner which was fielded by Eagle first baseman Brennan Wheeler, instead of stepping on first base instead threw to second to get the force out and threw the ball away allowing Davis to score from second. But Cobb didn’t stop running and ran through a stop sign to score all the way from first for the game winner. The 5-4 comeback win proved that sometimes it is best to be lucky as well as good allowing the Hawks to await their date with destiny.

What a Difference a Night Makes. The constant weather stoppages may have played a part in winners as well as losers in the Region Tournament. Ask the Bardstown Tigers, who had to wait four days to finish their first game against Campbellsville. The Tigers got a run in the top of the third and starter Reece Puckett was sailing along until lightning stopped play in the third. The fourth first round game, which was actually moved to LaRue County Friday Night because of field issues at John Hardin was continued Saturday afernoon back at John Hardin and the Eagles pounded the Tigers for eleven runs to close out an 11-1 win. Campbellsville didn’t have much time to celebrate their win as they had to prepare to play the second game of the semi-finals that night against LaRue County that night.

LaRue County and Elizabethtown also play the waiting game. Bardstown and Campbellsville weren’t the only team that had action suspended because of weather. The Hawks and Panthers went through the same thing Monday afternoon and had to wait three and a half days to decide a winner. Although the game started at John Hardin until the storm hit, the Hawks and Panthers packed up and traveled to LaRue County Friday Night to finish up a 3-1 Hawk win. It was the second time LaRue County had beaten Elizabethtown in the Region Tournament. The first time was 2012 by pretty much the same score at Elizabethtown. Since winning three straight Region Titles from 2014 to 2016, the Panthers have dropped the first game the last two years and will look a lot different next year with ten seniors (most starters) gone.

Region Tourney brings out the BIG ARMS. With a chance to go to the state tournament, every team brings out the stars and big games. If you want to be remembered, you need to do it when the pressures on. Washington County’s Josh Graves looked sharp in his team’s win over Adair County allowing only five hits and two runs. It was Graves first trip to the Region Tournament and he pitched well in the next game until Tyler Wood’s three run blast derailed the Commanders. The Indians got a great performance by junior pitcher Layndon Carter, who allowed just three hits in his first Region game. Elizabethtown’s Paul Fiepke threw a complete game against LaRue County in a loss and allowed just six hits despite waiting four days to finish up. Central Hardin’s Brendon Grider threw a good game against Campbellsville for six innings in a 8-4 win to finsh out his high school career. Probably the most interesting was LaRue County’s Jacob Gentry, who entered the championship game in the third and managed to keep the Bruins at bay for the most part in the biggest win of their season.

2003 ALL OVER AGAIN! It may have seemed like a long time since LaRue County last made a trip to the KHSAA State Tournament. More like fourteen to be exact and after the game, few players could remember that event or were even in grade school yet. That may be the best way to describe the gravity of what their first trip to Lexington means to not just the Hawk players and coaches, but also the fans. When asked if any of the players even remember that far back, most simply were too young. Dalton Skaggs said he wasn’t aware until he became a part of the LaRue County baseball program around the fourth or fifth grade. That 2003 team won two games until being eliminated by Male, 7-5 in the final four. This team can make their own history.

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY! LaRue County’s 11-9 win over Central Hardin may have capped perhaps the longest 5th Region Baseball Tournament in memory. Since 2014, the Region Tournament has been beset with weather delays and has actually only finished on time (three-day event just once in 2017). In 2014, the Championship game was scheduled by Wednesday, but pushed back til Thursday night and got three batters into the game before lightning stopped it. Elizabethtown won 1-0 against Bethlehem on Saturday afternoon. In 2015, the Tournament was lengthened one more day at Nelson County finishing on a Thursday and in 2016, Hart County became the third straight year in which weather closed down the Final on Thursday night and finishing up on Friday.