The Russell County Laker baseball team came out on top Tuesday in a battle of Top 25 teams in Kentucky.
The Lakers defeated Bowling Green 7-3 in the 4th Region semifinals and await the winner of today’s Warren East-Clinton County contest. The region championship is set for Thursday, although a time has not yet been determined.
If the Lakers win, it would be their first region title and appearance in the state tournament since 2009.
RCHS started off strong in its victory over Bowling Green, with Nick Aaron hitting a groundout to score Trace Stringer and Mayes Gosser scoring on a wild pitch to take a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
In the third inning, Aidan Antle — who recorded game-highs in hits (2) and RBI (3) — hit a line drive single to center field to score Gosser and courtesy runner Owen Loy.
The runs gave the Lakers a 4-0 advantage.
Neither team would score again until the fifth inning, when Nathan Lawson hit an RBI double to bring Gosser home for his third run of the game. Antle followed up with another single to score Loy to go up 6-0.
With rain coming down, Evan Hammond hit a ground ball to the shortstop that was misplayed and put runners on first and second base for the Lakers.
Moments later, the steady but manageable stream of rain turned into a torrential downpour that would delay the game for an hour and 45 minutes.
RCHS head coach David Rexroat said he “immediately” got the players together after the rain delay began to tell them to stay attentive and ready to go.
“I huddled them up inside of the dugout here and said, ‘Guys, this is the time to get focused and stay focused,’” Rexroat said. “‘Let’s not lose your focus and do some crazy stuff over here.’ And, for the most part, they did a really good job during the rain delay … and I’m very proud of them when they came back out.”
After the weather let up and play resumed, Bowling Green made a pitching change. Both of the Lakers’ first two batters — Camden Carpenter and Maxon Gosser — were hit by a pitch, with Gosser’s HBP bringing in a run to make it 7-0. After this run, the Lakers didn’t have another batter reach base for the remainder of the contest.
Lawson started the game on the mound and was dominant throughout the game, with a no-hitter going through five innings.
In the sixth inning, the long rain delay began to catch up to Lawson. A single, walk, and a throwing error allowed one runner to score for Bowling Green.
Another walk loaded the bases, and a passed ball followed by an RBI single cut the Purples’ deficit to 7-3 with no outs.
Rexroat made a pitching change, putting Cody Luttrell on the mound. Lawson struck out six batters and only gave up two hits and three earned runs in five innings of work.
“It’s hard for a kid that throws it really hard to come back off a rain delay,” Rexroat said, “and Nathan gave us all he could.”
Luttrell immediately made an impact, and his performance on the mound effectively ended the game, striking out all six batters he faced. Of the 29 pitches Luttrell threw, 19 were strikes.
“Cody came up big for us,” Rexroat said. “With Cody, all year long, he doesn’t get too excited, and he keeps his composure. I knew he was in pretty good shape with his composure, and that’s the guy we needed on the mound. We didn’t hesitate too long, and we brought him in to close the deal.”
Luttrell’s 29 pitches means he only has to rest for one calendar day. Because the championship game was moved to Thursday, he will be eligible to take the mound in the region finals.
“I just want to thank the community for their support, and we’ll need a strong community support (at the region championship),” Rexroat concluded.