With only a sporadic offense in his arsenal during the first half of the high school baseball season, Scott County coach Scott Willard repeatedly stressed to the Cardinals that their pitching and defense have to be near perfect for that they can compete in the 42nd district.
Last week’s spring trip to Vero Beach, Fla., was compelling proof that SC has mastered part of that equation.
SC seniors Trey Courtney and Andrew Willhite twirled an extra-inning masterpiece on Thursday, keeping Bullitt Central off balance long enough for student second Jacob Blair to hit a two-run home run inside the park in the top of the ninth and seal a 3-1 victory at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.
Scott County (6-10) allowed just five earned runs in 43 innings of work on the south swing, a tiny 0.81 ERA. The Cards split six games at Holman Stadium, winning all three in which they allowed one or zero points.
Courtney, who was touched for four runs in an inning at Franklin County in his only prior appearance, allowed just three hits and one unearned run in his six innings on the job. He struck out four and walked just one, Willhite allowed a hit in three scoreless frames with two strikeouts and no free passes.
Blair had three of Scott County’s four hits in the overall win. Willhite produced the other. SC was patient at the plate, walking six – including a pair by Connor Ramsey – and aggressive on base with interceptions from Willhite, Ramsey and Paul Garner.
The Cards overcame four errors and a strong start from Bullitt Central’s Grayson Reichert. Reichert allowed three hits and an unearned run while striking out three.
Shawn Rowe watched Cougars reliever Marvin Nelson’s ball four to start the ninth inning. Blair then fouled down a 2-2 pitch before ripping a ball into the right corner.
Nelson landed the next three outs, but the damage was done. Willhite brought out Blake Pedley at shortstop Luke Valencia, persuaded Cameron Thiel to groundout Ramsey in second and took out Brady Bowlin who was looking to end it.
Scott County scored its first run in the top of the first inning of a game delayed three hours due to midday thunderstorms. Willhite walked and Garner reached base when Reichert mismanaged his roll to the mound.
Bullitt Central caught Willhite stealing third, but Garner found himself there when he took second on his half of the double steal and then progressed on a passed ball. Jay Wilson followed with an RBI groundout.
The brace with an out of Jordan Powell led to the tying point in the third Bullitt Central. A stray pitch trying to throw Powell to third after a pitch allowed the tying count.
Courtney struck out the last two batters this inning to start a six-straight streak.
The Cougars had another double play in the fourth after Ramsey started with a walk.
Blair singled to start the fifth, and after a defender was picked, Valencia’s sacrifice bunt moved the potential go-ahead to goalscoring position. Reichert froze Willlhite on a third strike called to squirm.
An error and bunt single gave Bullitt Central a tie-breaking chance in their fifth half, but Wilson ejected a potential base robber before Courtney induced another late-inning grounder.
Bullitt Central’s third double play of the afternoon wiped out a hit batter (Garner) in the sixth, Ramsey walked with two out but got stuck.
A walk and a one-out single put Courtney on the ropes in her farewell frame. He retired Pedley and got Shane Carnes on a pop to Ramsey in second.
The single with a Blair out and a disallowance gave SC a chance to win in regulation. A pair of flying balls freed Bullitt Central from the seventh.
Besieged by double plays all day, SC became the biggest of them all in the bottom of the seventh, with Landon Whitson signaling a popup and finding Ramsey to pocket a floating baserunner. Willhite then swung Powell to force extra innings.
Scott County hosts Bryan Station on Wednesday and travels to Lexington on Thursday for the district opener.