LEITCHFIELD - The Cougars pounded out 13 hits Monday evening to take a 12-2, five-inning victory over Whitesville Trinity in the opener of the 12th District Tournament, which is being held at Don Lee Field.
The win, the Cougars' 16th in their last 18 games, assured them a spot in next week's Third Region Championships, also being held at the Cougars' home field. They were scheduled to play Edmonson County, a 7-0 winner over Butler County in the evening's second game, in Wednesday's 12th District final.
The Cougars used three different pitchers in the game, shortened to five innings when Grayson County grabbed a 10-run lead in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Kyle Lashley started and was rocked for two runs in the top of the first that gave the Raiders their only lead of the night. Lashley also had runners at first and second in the second inning, but struck out the other three batters he faced to get out of the inning.
Senior Brett Clemons pitched the next two innings, giving up no hits while striking out three. Junior Jared Smith pitched the final inning, hitting one batter but getting an unassisted double play from first-baseman J.D. Tucker to end the inning.
Raider shortstop Nathan Roberts hit Lashley's first pitch of the game off the top of the fence in left-center field for a double. Jordan Edge followed by attempting a sacrifice bunt that went for a base hit and moved Roberts to third. Alex Knott then hit a ball off his fists that fell between Lashley and Tucker and went for an infield hit and drove in the first run.
Lashley then hit Denny Stevens to load the bases for left-fielder Ryan Hamilton, who lifted a fly ball to right deep enough to plate the second run. Lashley induced Drew Knott to pop out to Tucker at first, then got out of the inning when catcher Kyle Block caught the runner at third straying too far from the bag and gunned him down for the final out.
That would be it for the visitors and it was just the beginning for the Cougars. Jon Meredith walked leading off the first inning and was balked to second by starter and loser Ethan Brown. Nick Beeler followed with a single to bring Meredith around. Beeler stole second, then came home when Brett Clemons doubled into the right-center gap.
Clemons advanced to third on a wild pitch before Lincoln Skaggs walked. With Brown staring in for the sign with his foot on the rubber, Skaggs took off for second. When Brown failed to take his foot off the rubber before turning to second, a second balk was called and Clemons scored to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead.
A third balk put Skaggs on third base before Jordan Drakes came through with a two-out single to drive in Skaggs to make it 4-2.
Grayson County scored twice more in the second. Beeler doubled with one out and came in to score when Roberts elected to throw home on a Clemons grounder to short and the throw was not in time. Clemons stole second, was wild pitched to third then scored as catcher Eric Robert's throw to third sailed high into left.
Grayson County scored five times in the fourth to bring them to within a run of a 10-run lead. Three straight singles from Beeler, Clemons and Skaggs accounted for the first run. Sean Embry followed by popping out to second-baseman Jordan Edge, but Edge's throw to first trying for a double play went into the Cougar dugout, allowing Clemons to score from third and sending Skaggs to second.
An infield single by Tommy Hewes and a looper down the right-field line by Drake loaded the bases for Lashley, whose single to left plated two more runs. Tucker followed with a single up the middle to make it 11-2.
The Cougars ended it in the fifth with a single run. Clemons reached on an error and went to second on a wild pitch. Skaggs followed with a single into right that drove in Skaggs and sent the Cougars into the regionals.
Beeler finished the night going 3-for-4, scoring three runs and driving in one. Clemons was 2-for-4, scored four times and drove in two. Skaggs was 2-for-2 with two walks, scored twice and drove in two. Drake was 3-for-3 with one run scored and one driven in.