Boyle coach David Camic said the pressure is greater on his team than in recent years, when the Rebels' path to the regional was blocked only by a No. 4 seed. This year's tournament is unseeded.
"There's a lot more pressure on us," Camic said. "We've got to look at it differently than any year I've coached in the district tournament. We are like a team with our back to the wall. If we don't come out fighting, we hang it up."
Regional tournament at North Laurel
The team that survives will be considered one of the best in next week's 12th Region Tournament at North Laurel. Two other area teams, Lincoln County and Mercer County, could also contend in the regional.
Defending champion Pulaski County is the only 12th Region team that has been ranked in the statewide poll this season. Camic said the Maroons aren't head and shoulders above the rest of the region.
"They're not dominant," Camic said. "There's no dominant team in the region."
Danville won its only meeting with Boyle this season, beating the Rebels for the first time in seven years. And while Morse said there is both good and bad in that for his team, he said the good probably outweighs the bad.
"We kind of look at it both ways, but we like knowing we can beat them," Morse said. "For the past seven years, that's been a real problem for our team but we also know we could've awakened a sleeping giant."
Defense plagued Boyle in its 10-4 loss to Danville on April 27, and the Rebels' defense has been inconsistent all season, though Camic said before the season he thought it would be one of their strengths. "We've got to field it better than the last time we played," Camic said.
Camic said lineup changes made in recent weeks have shored up the defense, and Boyle is still well-armed with pitchers: Andrew Bertram, Jamie Robinson and Evan Teague.
Danville also has three quality pitchers in Deangleo Durham, whose 7-2 record includes the win over Boyle, along with Joey Beldon and Rich Witten.
The Admirals have also been effective on offense, led by Witten, Durham and Ronnie Hawkins. Boyle's top hitters include Tyler Morris, who has nine home runs and 38 RBIs, and Andrew West.
Lincoln will be heavily favored to beat Casey County in the 45th District's other first-round game. The Patriots are led at the plate by Logan Boyd and Nate Rice and on the mound by Chris Hart.
Mercer, Harrodsburg play in district
In the 46th District, Mercer, last year's regional runner-up and the district's top seed this season, isn't letting its guard down against fourth-seeded Harrodsburg.
"Our first goal is to win a district championship, and we're not going to worry about the region yet," Mercer coach Jeremy Shope said. "You never know what can happen."
Harrodsburg gained some confidence put together an eight-game winning streak late in the season. And although Mercer won both regular-season meetings, the Pioneers led one game 6-0 before succumbing.
Mercer has a number of players in its lineup who weren't there last season, but Shope said the Scotties have come together well.
"We started out the season with a bunch of young people on the field, and that's no longer an excuse," he said. "We've competed with them against a tough schedule with the best in the state."
Offense is the strong suit for Mercer, which is led at the plate by Michael Bottoms, John Wickliffe and Kameron McRay.
The other game in the 46th matches young Garrard County and more experienced Burgin, who split their regular-season meetings. Garrard got the higher seed, but coach Brad Woods said he knows the Golden Lions will have to beat Burgin's Zack Gross to reach the next round.
"We've got to be patient," Woods said. "We swing at a lot of stupid pitches. When we see a kid throwing in the 80s, we jump at anything."