In one of the more frustrating games in recent Grayson County history, the Cougars lost 3-1 in nine innings to the Daviess County Panthers in the final of the 3rd Region Baseball Tournament, held Wednesday night in Brandenburg.
The Panthers had beaten host Meade County on Tuesday 6-3 to reach the championship game. The Cougars won 4-1 over the Ohio County Eagles in the other semi-final match-up.
Things seemed to be set up perfectly for the Cougars to capture their first regional title since 1993. The Panthers were unable to use either of their top two pitchers in this game, while the Cougars had the full services of junior left-hander Wyatt Skaggs.
The Panthers chose to go with sophomore left-hander Andrew Hayden, and that turned out to be a good move. Hayden went all nine innings for the Panthers, allowing just a single, unearned run on five hits. Hayden also was 2-for-4 at the plate and drove in what turned out to be the winning run in the ninth inning.
Skaggs had pitched in the Monday opener against Hancock County, going five innings and giving up just a single run to earn the win. While he wasn’t as sharp against the Panthers, he battled mightily the whole game. Skaggs went eight full innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. He hurt himself with four walks and four hit-batsmen, but was able to work out of jams in the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings before finally giving up the winning run in the ninth.
The Cougars scored first with an unearned run in the first inning. With one out, Jameson Van Meter singled, then stole second base. With two outs, Alex Shellhart singled to left. Head coach Danny Clark threw up the stop sign as Van Meter rounded third, but when the throw from left-fielder Nelson Dant was airmailed to the backstop, Van Meter came in to score. It would be the Cougars’ only score of the night.
Grayson County had runners at the corners with two outs in the third inning, but Hayden struck out Shellhart to end that frame.
It appeared the Cougars would take the lead after getting Van Meter to third with two outs in the sixth inning. Joseph Anthony hit a soft liner up the middle that seemed destined to be a run-scoring hit, but Panther second-baseman Jed Arend made a diving catch just off the turf to frustrate the Cougars.
Grayson County was ninety feet away from winning it in the bottom of the seventh when they had runners at the corners with only one out and the Panthers having pulled their infield in. But Dylan Yaden hit a ball right at Arend, who threw to the plate to get a sliding Logan Stevenson for the second out. Hayden then got Logan Ramsey to pop up for the final out.
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Anthony reached base on a Panther error, but was promptly erased when Stevenson hit into a double play. Freshman Hunter Young entered as a pinch hitter and walked before Dylan Woodcock reached on another Panther error.
But with the tying runs on the base paths, Hayden got Yaden to ground into a force out and the Panthers were headed to the state tournament.
In ceremonies following the game, Cougar pitching coach Gavin Logsdon was named 3rd Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Cougars closed out their season with a 3rd Region-best record of 25-11.
The Eagles were probably the surprise of the tournament after scoring six times in the top of the seventh inning to oust Apollo 9-6 in the opening round on Monday.
The Eagles started Chris Logsdon against the Cougars and the right-hander proceeded to baffle and frustrate the Cougar hitters through the first five innings. Grayson County had just one runner past first base in those first five innings before breaking things open in the sixth inning, when they scored three times.
The Eagles got on the board first with a run in the third inning against starter Joseph Anthony. Jake Griffin led off with a single, stole second and third bases, then scored on a two out throwing error by Logan Stevenson, at third.
Anthony finished by pitching 4 2/3 innings and got no decision. He allowed just the single, unearned run on two hits, walked one and struck out three.
Left-handed sophomore Gage Akridge entered in the fifth inning and wound up recording the win following the Cougar rally in the sixth. Akridge gave up no runs on three hits, walked none and struck out three.
The Cougars got to Logsdon in the sixth inning. With one out, Skaggs singled and Shellhart was hit by a pitch. Anthony followed by ripping a pitch down the third-base line that was gloved by Brennan Leach. But the ball trickled away from Leach and the Cougars had the bases loaded on the infield hit.
That brought up Stevenson, who hit the first pitch he saw into the gap in right-center and it rolled all the way to the fence. All three runners were able to score on the play to put the Cougars in front to stay, 3-1.
Grayson County added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Yaden singled leading off and was sacrificed to second by Ramsey. Van Meter singled to right, putting runners at the corners before Yaden scored on a single up the middle by Skaggs.