The Bat Patriots got back to their winning ways Saturday by shooting down the visiting Rockcastle County Rockets 9-4 in the Lincoln County Invitational.
Lincoln County, which was coming off back-to-back losses to Pulaski and Danville, allowed Rockcastle to battle back from a 3-1 deficit and go up 4-3 in the top of the fifth. But the Bat Patriots recouped the runs in the bottom of the inning, answering with six runs to take the lead for good.
Strong baserunning gave Lincoln the edge it needed to beat the Rockets, with Ryne Otto and John Day tagging the only Lincoln hits to the outfield in the inning. The five batters ahead of Otto got on by a dead ball, three bunts and an error.
“We executed real well right there. I think there might have been two balls leave the infield that inning,” said Lincoln coach Brad McNew. “That’s kind of how we’ve got to play. All of them executed. Everybody that laid one down executed well and then Ryne Otto came up with the big hit to clear the bases and that’s what broke it open.”
Dylan King was the first batter up for Lincoln in the fifth and the first on when Damien McDaniel hit him with a pitch. Jake Combs, pinch runner for King, moved around to third on a bunt by Tanner Leigh then tied the game at 4-all when he scored on a Tre` Owens bunt. Chase Pemberton loaded up the bases with another bunt and all runners advanced on a Pulaski fielding error, with Leigh touching home plate for a 5-4 Lincoln edge.
It was then that Otto stepped up to the plate and connected for the double to centerfield to clear the bases. The 3-RBI hit drove in Owens, Pemberton and Vinny Morris, who reached on the error, to make it an 8-4 ballgame.
Lincoln (3-6) was good for one more run before the end of the inning. After a Clay Estes infield fly, John Day doubled to centerfield to drive in Otto and put the Bat Patriots up 9-4. Day attempted to make it a six-run difference with a steal attempt at home but Rockcastle catcher Luke Allen got him with the tag.
McDaniel finally got out of the inning by striking out Ben Mullins.
Rockcastle (5-3) made the early comeback to overtake Lincoln but the Bat Patriot defense would deny Rockcastle any more runs in the sixth or seventh innings.
Michael Wilcher, who replaced starting pitcher Tyler Holbrook in the fourth inning, gave up a walk to Allen to open the sixth but Allen was caught on the force out on a Tyler Smith fielder’s choice. Smith moved to second on a Josh McKinney bunt and took third on a balk.
After a strikeout on McDaniel, McNew had Wilcher load up the bases for the Rockets with an intentional walk on John L Saylor. With an RBI hit by Saylor already in the game, McNew wasn’t taking any chances.
“I’m from there. I coached there for two years and he’s a kid I’ve known for years. And it was a respectful move for us to do that to him,” McNew said. “He’s mad at me right now, but he’s one of the best players in the region. He is one great player and that’s why that happened. He’s got the capability of getting them back in the game in one swing.”
First was as far as John L Saylor would get with Boone Saylor popping out to right field to end the inning.
John Day came on to close for Lincoln in the seventh and only faced four batters. Ben Lane went deep to center to start the inning and, after an infield fly by Zack Reams, moved to third off a Chris Wren single. Lane would be left standing at third, however, with Wren cut down by Lincoln’s Pemberton on an Allen shot to short then Pemberton making the throw to King at first for a game-ending double play.
“When you’re sitting on a five-run lead, it’s a lot easier. We didn’t necessarily relax but we stayed composed and made the plays,” said McNew. “We didn’t have to worry if they’re going to score here. We threw strikes for the most part, which is what you’ve got to do when you get a lead, is throw pitches, get contact and let them hit. We can’t put guys on that don’t need to be there.”
McNew credited his three pitchers for getting Lincoln in a position to win.
“Tyler Holbrook did a great job, Michael Wilcher came in and did an excellent job and John Day is a guy I know is going to throw strikes. That was a good guy to have in and close it out,” he said. “All three pitched it real well. I tell our guys to give us a chance to win and that’s what they did today.”
Estes and Day drove in Lincoln’s runs in the first inning to give Lincoln a 3-1 lead after two.
Rockcastle evened the score at 3-3 with two runs in the third. McDaniel, who walked on, scored on a John L Saylor RBI then Saylor scored on a double by Boone Saylor. Reams, who drove in Allen in the first, put the Rockets up 5-4 in the fifth with an RBI triple to score Lake.