MEMPHIS, TN. -- After waiting out the rain for two days, the Cougar baseball team finally made it onto the field Wednesday night and absorbed a 13-1 pounding at the hands of the Christian Brothers Purple Wave.
The U.S.A. Classic Tournament had been scheduled to begin Wednesday with games at three different sites around the Memphis area, but steady rains all day and night on Wednesday forced the tournament to be moved back one day.
Thursday didn't start out any better as rain came down most of the day. The Cougars were scheduled to play at 5:15, but after a first game that ran long, then another rain-delay of nearly an hour, the Cougars did not start until after 7 p.m.
The main part of the tournament is held at the U.S.A. Baseball Complex in Millington, a town about 15 miles north of Memphis. The Cougars were slated to play at Christian Brothers High School in east Memphis, where the signs in the outfield told of a storied baseball program. Seven state championships, nine state runner-up finishes and numerous appearances in semi-final and quarter-finals were recorded there.
In right field was a sign that said the Purple Wave's field had been selected by the Baseball Coaches Association as the National Field of the Year. Pretty daunting stuff for a bunch of country boys from Kentucky.
That pristine field looked great, but two days of steady rain had turned it into a shallow reservoir. The infield had been covered and was in good shape, but standing water could be seen all over the outfield. When Corey Johnson made a diving grab of a line drive in the fifth inning, twin rooster-tails of water flew out to either side. The players did not have a dry stitch on them after the game.
Still, the Cougars held their own for three innings. Junior Kyle Lashley was having a pretty good outing against the potent Purple Wave squad. Lashley had given up two runs, one of them unearned, on three hits and a walk.
Grayson County threatened in the second after Lincoln Skaggs walked with two outs. Junior Jordan Drake ripped a ball into right field that went for a double when right fielder Jimmy Washam dove but could not come up with the ball. The wet field hurt the Cougars when the ball did not carry far after Washam's dive. Skaggs was sent home by Head Coach Danny Clark, but Washam was able to get to the ball and deliver a strike to catcher Blake Forsythe to easily get Skaggs for the third out.
The good feelings disappeared in the fourth inning, though, as the Purple Wave chased Lashley by sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs. Purple Wave pitcher Seth Rainey batted third in the inning, after they had scored the third run of the game, and made the first out. He then made the second out nine batters later.
In between, Lashley was replaced on the mound by junior Brett Clemons, who allowed five straight hits which drove in three of the runs.
Trailing 10-0, the Cougars scored a run in the bottom of the fourth. Clemons walked leading off the inning and was sacrificed to second by Corey Johnson. With two outs, Skaggs ripped a single to center to bring Clemons home with the Cougars' only run.
The Purple wave added three more runs in the top of the fifth off of Skaggs, who had replaced Clemons on the mound. Designated hitter Matt Packer drove in two with a double, then Packer came home on a pinch-hit single by J. M. Skinner.
Those runs meant the Cougars would have to score three runs in the bottom of the inning if they hoped to avoid having the 10-run rule end the game. The Cougars put two men on with just one out after freshman Kent Rudnick beat out an infield single and Sean Embry was hit by a pitch, but Jon Meredith struck out and Clemons popped out to end the game.
Rainey pitched all five innings for the Purple Wave, allowing just the one run on four hits, while striking out six. Rainey walked two and hit one batter.
When the Cougars return, they will have a busy week ahead of them. On Monday, they travel to Apollo for a 6 p.m. game with the Eagles. On Wednesday they will be at home against Owensboro Senior for a 6 p.m. contest.
Friday night they travel to Glasgow to take on the Scotties at 5:30, then on Saturday they will host Daviess County beginning at noon.