ALEXANDRIA — George Rogers Clark took advantage of its draw in the 10th Region Tournament and the reward paid off in the form of a ticket to the state tournament.
“I told (the players) before the tournament, gave them a scenario, and told them that we had to have a (good) draw,” Clark coach Larry Allison said.
The Cardinals concluded the successful three-game march through the tourney with a 14-4 rout of Bourbon County in five innings Thursday night at Campbell County High School. Clark advances to the state tournament set for June 13-18 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington.
The state appearance will be Clark’s first under the current 16-team format. The Cards will take on the 5th Region winner Central Hardin at 8:30 p.m. on June 13.
Allison liked the way his team kept its focus throughout the five-inning contest.
Clark (22-11) lost to the Colonels 10-4 in the 40th District finals six days ago in Paris and suffered a 5-2 setback during the regular season, but gained revenge after Bourbon used up all of its energy in a 4-3 upset over defending region and state champion Harrison County Wednesday night.
Clark had a little more time to rest after it survived a close call with an exciting 6-5 triumph over
host Campbell County in the semifinals. Clark opened the tournament with an 8-1 victory over Mason County Monday to set the tone for the team's successful run in the tournament.
Bourbon was without its top two pitchers, including ace Chase Mullins, and went with senior Tyler Clark, the third man in the rotation.
“They were a little decimated (on the mound), and playing as late as they played (Wednesday night), that hurt them,” Allison said.
The Cards put the finishing touches on the contest in the bottom of the fifth when senior Zach Pasley connected on his only hit of the game with a single that scored Logan McQuerry for the game winner.
Although hitless in his previous three appearances, Pasley came through when it counted the most.
“I just wanted to get that hit and get that run in,” Pasley said afterward. “This feels awesome. Five years here and finally getting a regional championship is amazing. It hasn’t hit me yet, but it will when I get on that bus. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Clark senior Anthony Withrow, who got the win in a semifinal victory over the Camels, paced Clark’s offense with three hits, including a two-out double that scored the team’s first runs in the first inning. Withrow said the Cardinals were determined after Bourbon scored a pair of runs in the top of the inning.
“We just wanted to come out focused,” Withrow said. “This could have been our last game playing, and we just had to come out together and leave it out on the field. As you can tell by the score, that’s what we did.”
Clark went with Tyler Martinez, who went the distance and scattered four hits through five innings. Martinez served up a two-run home run to Mullins in the top of the first, but settled down through the next four innings. Martinez gave up six hits, struck out two. Martinez and Hunter Osborne combined on a three-hitter in the team’s opening-round win over the Royals on Monday.
“He did a great job,” Allison said. “He just missed a spot (on the home run) and the thing about him, is he’s so intelligent, he knows he missed the spot and it was no big deal. I don’t think it rattled him at all. A lot of kids, it would have bothered them, but it didn’t bother him.”
To go along with their 13 hits, the Cards also were solid defensively, capped by Brent Stoneking's 4-3 double play to end the fifth-inning. Stoneking snagged a line drive by Chris Norman and picked off Tyler Bretz at first to end the inning.
Bourbon County coach Nelson Faris said his team was “at the bottom of the tank” following the shocker over the Thorobreds.
“On Wednesday night, we were hugging and dancing after maybe the biggest win in Bourbon baseball history,” he said. “Tonight, it’s a long ride home.”
Allison, who endured the loss of his mother last week, capped the emotional week with a region title in hand.
“The whole tournament, I just kept thinking, ‘mom, help me out,’” he said with a smile.