LEXINGTON - Greenup County's dream of winning a state title came to an abrupt end as Pleasure Ridge Park poured on the offense late in a 14-5 win over the Musketeers at Applebee's Park in Lexington on Wednesday night.
Pleasure Ridge Park pounded out 18 hits and scored nine runs in the final two innings in front of 2,738 fans to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
“Out of 18 hits, 15 of them were missiles,” Greenup County coach Greg Logan said. “They should win if they can do that. We just couldn't stop them. They are a great team and we gave them some extra outs.”
Clutch hitting was the theme of the night with several runs coming with either two strikes or two outs against the Musketeer pitchers. The exclamation point came with two outs in the top of the sixth when Zack Cox hit a towering 470-foot home run off reliever Dakota Greenslate to give PRP a 9-2 cushion after Greenup County had trimmed the lead to three.
“Anytime you put up a couple runs in the sixth inning, it puts a dagger in the heart of the opposition,” Cox said.
Earlier in the game, Cox had laced a triple off the top of the wall in right-center field to score a run and give the Panthers a 5-0 lead after three innings against Greenup County starter Tyler Hieneman. Cox ended the game 3-for-4 with a double, triple, home run and four RBIs.
“He's one of our leading hitters and our best pitcher,” PRP coach Bill Miller said. “Anytime you have someone with that much ability, you have to like that.”
PRP looked every bit like a veteran state tournament team in disposing of the Musketeers. The Panthers have won three state championships with all three coming from 1994-96.
The Panthers look primed for a fourth title, having won 15 straight games with offense leading the charge. PRP has now scored seven or more runs in 13 of those 15 victories.
In the first inning, the Musketeers ran into trouble with runners on first and third and only one out, but a squeeze attempt by Jeremy French came right back to Hieneman who made the easy play, but the Musketeers missed a potential inning-ending double play at third base.
PRP made Greenup County pay for the extra outs with some timely hitting.
Hieneman forced an 0-2 count on PRP's Shawn Thompson, but Thompson battled back to a 3-2 count before lacing a triple to the wall in right-center to plate the first runs of the game. Once again, Hieneman battled to an 0-2 count on Billy Wilcox, but Wilcox
singled up the middle to score Thompson and give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
“They are a disciplined team and they didn't chase most of our pitches,”
Logan said. “We missed a couple of times when we had them down, but they are great hitters, no matter what the count.”
The Panthers added a pair of runs in the third to increase the lead to five with the big blow being a triple by Cox.
While PRP was getting the clutch hits when needed, Greenup County had trouble mustering any offense against PRP's Wes Walden early on. Walden had pitched three innings of no-hit ball before Eric Craft led off the fourth with a single and advanced to second on an error before a pass ball moved him to third. Zach Stringfellow then plated Craft with a groundout to first to cut the lead to 5-1. Craft finished with three of Greenup County's four hits as the Musketeers ended their season at 28-13.