Shope said the Mustangs are similar to one of Mercer’s recent opponents in the way they attack at the plate.
“I was talking to one of my coaches, and I said, ‘This team reminds me a lot of Somerset. They’re going to come out swinging,’” he said.
Somerset jumped on Mercer for four first-inning runs before the Titans rallied to beat the Briar Jumpers 11-7 in the 12th Region Tournament championship June 1.
North Oldham averages 8.91 runs per game. That’s even better than Mercer’s average of 8.63, although the Titans are averaging 12.17 per game in the postseason. The Mustangs’ postseason average is 9.17.
Matthew Honchel, the probable starting pitcher for Mercer, said the Titans will try to just keep doing what they do.
“We’re just going to come out and play our game. We’re not really going to worry about them and how they play,” Honchel said.
Six different players had hits for North Oldham in their win over Union, and Shope said there was solid contact up and down the lineup.
“One through nine was able to find the barrel several times through that ballgame,” he said.
The Mustangs’ top hitter is senior shortstop Quint Heady, who went 3-for-5 out of the leadoff spot Tuesday. Heady leads the team in batting average (.505), home runs (four), RBIs (46) and stolen bases (35), and he has struck out only seven times in 111 at-bats.
His brother, second baseman Connor Heady, hits behind him in the lineup and is batting .412. A sophomore, Connor Heady has already committed to play for Kentucky.
Junior first baseman-right fielder John Kohler has four home runs and 42 RBIs, and Rowe hit a three-run homer during North Oldham’s win over Union. But the Mustangs have only 12 home runs on the season — Mercer has 19 by comparison — relying more heavily on contact hitters and team speed.
Like Mercer, North Oldham won its region for the first time this year. This is the school’s eighth season, and the Mustangs hadn’t had a winning season until Matt Walker took over as coach in 2008.
They lost three times to intra-country rival Oldham County this season, including 14-12 to Oldham County in the 29th District finals, then turned the tables with a 13-4 win in the 8th Region finals a week later.
Senior Tim LeMastus pitched that game and will likely pitch against Mercer after North Oldham used sophomore Matt Rowe against Union. LeMastus is 4-3 with a 3.91 earned-run average, and he has 43 strikeouts and 20 walks in 43 innings. The Mustangs’ other option on the mound is junior Vince Lewis (7-3, 5.00).
Mercer has its own options because Shope took Clay Cinnamon off the mound Tuesday after he threw only three innings. Honchel (8-2, 3.04) is expected to start, but fellow senior Cinnamon (6-0, 2.71) is eligible to pitch, as is everyone else on the staff.
Honchel said the Titans were thrilled to extend their state tournament stay instead of making a first-round exit, and they aren’t ready for it to end.
“We’re definitely up here to win a state championship,” he said. “We’re not here just to be here and to make our appearance and leave.”