LEXINGTON — McCracken County right-handed pitcher Jacob Ehling said he was nervous going into Thursday’s start against Rowan County in the quarterfinals of the KHSAA state tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Opposite the Rend Lake-bound righty was Vikings righty A.J. Hacker, this year’s Mr. Baseball.
It was Ehling who finished with the upper hand in the Mustangs’ 2-1 win, holding Hacker to an 0-for-3 night at the plate, with two strikeouts.
“In the first inning, my heart was racing,” said Ehling, who went 6 2/3 innings, giving up an earned run on four hits, while striking out six and walking three for the Mustangs, who play at 7:30 p.m. (Central) today against the winner of the Louisville Trinity-Hazard quarterfinal, which was postponed to 10 a.m. today with the threat of storms in the area Thursday night. “We’re at Whitaker and it’s a big stage. I loved it, I grinded it out and we got the win.”
The obstacle of facing Mr. Baseball for the second year in a row did not seem to faze the Mustangs, whose leadoff batters reached base in each of the first three innings.
After Ben Higdon doubled to the gap in right-center field on the first pitch of the game, Elijah Wheat sent him to third on a fielder’s choice. Logan Verble then doubled down the first base line, scoring Higdon.
The Mustangs got an insurance run on an RBI single from Grant Godwin with two out in the top of the seventh.
“That’s tremendous,” said Verble, who was 2-for-4. “When you’re going up against a guy like that, you really have to jump on the other team early. That’s what we were talking about before the game. If we can jump on them early and put some pressure on them, we thought things would go good for us.”
Ehling was settled, retiring 14 of 15, before a troublesome bottom of the seventh inning took McCracken to its bullpen, where right-hander Dylan Schneider — today’s likely starter — got the last out, stranding the winning runs at first and second.
“It was raining hard and the ball was slick, but I just had to suck it up and do it,” said Schneider of his second high-leverage save in as many relief appearances.
For McCracken skipper Geno Miller, the combination of Ehling and Schneider has been a lethal 1-2 punch on the mound.
“They’re Batman and Robin,” Miller said of his senior co-aces. “They can distinguish (between) themselves. They kind of argue about that. They’ve gone back and forth all year. One would start (and) one would come in behind the other one. It’s a great weapon for our team to have. They’re seasoned guys. They’ve been here before.”
McCracken County 100 000 1 2 9 0
Rowan County 000 000 1 1 4 0
Ehling, Schneider (7) and Hutchins; Hacker, Gagliano (6) and Binion.
WP: Ehling. LP: Hacker. Sv: Schneider.
2B: MC-Higdon, Verble; RC-Leuenberger. 3B: None. HR: None. Top hitters: MC-Dodd 2-3, Verble 2-4, Godwin 1-4; RC-Eastham 1-2, Leuenberger 1-1. Records: McCracken County 32-7, Rowan County 39-4.
KHSAA Baseball Tournament
Whitaker Bank Ballpark, Lexington
Breckenridge County 10, Beechwood 6 (8 inn.)
Tates Creek 3, Pleasure Ridge Park 2
McCracken County 2, Rowan County 1
Louisville Trinity vs. Hazard, ppd.
Today’s games (All times Central)
Trinity vs. Hazard, 10 a.m.
Tates Creek vs. Breckenridge, 5:30 p.m.
McCracken County vs. Trinity/Hazard, 7:30 p.m.
Championship: 6 p.m.