The Danville Admirals are headed to their eighth consecutive 12th Region baseball tournament as a champion.
Danville kept a firm grip on the 45th District Tournament title Wednesday night with an 8-1 win over Lincoln County in the championship game at Boyle County.
“That’s what we work for and it feels good to win again,” Danville coach Paul Morse said. “It was a good win. Lincoln did a good job today. They kept us off balance with their pitching and we left a ton of guys on base, but we ended up getting enough across to pull out the win.”
The Admirals (27-8) scored all the runs they needed for the win in the second inning, with Rob Caudill scoring on a Tyler Sebastian RBI single and J.B. Williams benefitting from a bases-loaded walk. But it was in the fourth inning that Danville inflicted the most damage, scoring five runs to put the Patriots (14-19) away.
Lincoln coach Brad McNew just shook his head after Danville’s offensive surge.
“One day everything goes your way, and the next day it doesn’t,” McNew said, comparing the finals to Lincoln’s big semifinal win over Boyle. “But that’s baseball, and that’s pretty much what happened. Today, things went Danville’s way.”
Williams led off the fourth inning for Danville with a double to left center, then Sebastian tagged an RBI double to get the scoring started.
Danville had runners on first and third after Max Meckes reached on an error, but Sebastian came home when Lincoln misplayed a grounder off Andrew Lasure. Rhodes Bell moved runners around with a shot to right field, driving in Meckes to make it 5-0.
Dowell Harmon was hit by a pitch to load up the bases when Hunter Terry hit a blooper to right. Mason Stamm, a pinch-runner for Lasure, and Bell scored on the bloop shot to give Danville a 7-0 lead.
Lincoln’s Tyler Holbrook, one of four Patriot pitchers to see action Wednesday, faced 11 Admirals before getting out of the fourth with two infield fly balls and a ground out.
Morse said the five-run fourth was just the Admirals responding to a challenge.
“I’d kind of gotten on them early because we left maybe six, seven guys on the first three innings,” he said. “Brad was going with the scenario of changing pitchers as much as he could to keep us off balance, and I think it kept us from getting clutch hits, so we were on them pretty hard about stepping up and getting a hit with some runners in scoring position. We had a few guys that did that that inning, and it gave us that cushion we needed.”
Holding Danville to a 2-0 lead through three innings had McNew optimistic about Lincoln’s chances of a comeback. After the five-run fourth, he wasn’t as confident.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them off balance until that inning. That inning they really strung the hits together and we got behind. When it’s 2-0 it looks pretty good. When it gets to 7-0, it changes the complexion of the game,” he said. “And we didn’t help ourselves. We left a lot of runners on base. You’ve got to score those runners when they’re sitting there.”
Winning pitcher Austin Baxter (7-3) was stingy with the hits, giving up just three hits, one run and two walks while striking out nine Lincoln batters.
“He did a great job,” Morse said. “He and Rob Caudill have led that rotation all year long and have pitched against some really tough competition and held their own. We expected him to come out and throw the strikes, and I’m proud that he executed it.”
Lincoln threatened to make a dent in Baxter’s runs-allowed statistic and the Admiral lead in both the fourth and fifth innings.
The Patriots had Ryne Otto on second and Tre’ Owens on third with one out in the fourth, only to have Baxter get out of the jam with two strikeouts.
In the fifth, Nick Smith, who doubled to lead off the inning, was on third and Zach Brown was at first after a walk. After a Boone Baird strikeout, Lincoln was looking to score as Tanner Leigh lofted a short bunt.
But Danville third baseman Caudill cut Lincoln off with his own double play, hustling toward home plate and stretching out his glove for the out, then sprinting back to tag third before Smith could get back on base.
“We had our opportunities. It just didn’t work out,” McNew said.
While Danville claimed the winners’ trophy, Lincoln still can find satisfaction in the fact that the Patriots are still playing. The last time Lincoln made it through the first round of the district tournament was in 2006. As district runner-up, the Patriots will join Danville in the regional, which begins Monday at Southwestern.
“We’ve improved a lot because these guys believe that baseball is important to them. That’s why we beat Boyle County. That’s why we are still playing,” McNew said. “These guys have laid a foundation, and hopefully we can continue to improve. We want to play in the regional tournament every year.”
Buck Volk started on the mound for the Patriots in the district final. Michael Wilcher came on in the second inning, Holbrook worked part of the fourth before being relieved by Dylan King and Zach Brown came on in the sixth.
45th District Tournament
At Boyle County
Lincoln County 000 001 0 — 1 3 4
Danville 020 510 x — 8 7 3
Buck Volk, Michael Wilcher (2), Tyler Holbrook (4), Dylan King (4), Zach Brown (6) and Boone Baird. Austin Baxter, Tyler Beldon (7) and Andrew Lasure. 2B—Tyler Sebastian (D), Max Meckes (D), JB Williams (D), Ryne Otto (LC), Nick Smith (LC).
Ronnie Saylor, Garrard County; Casey Tiller, Boyle County; John Day, Lincoln County; Ben Mullins, Lincoln County; Tre’ Owens, Lincoln County; Rhodes Bell, Danville; Max Meckes, Danville; Rob Caudill, Danville; Austin Baxter, Danville.