By Don Brown
Grayson County’s Cougars saw their baseball season come to an abrupt end Monday morning in Owensboro as the Apollo Eagles knocked them out of the opening round of the 3rd Region Tournament by a 7-1 score.
The Cougars, who had had trouble getting hits and scoring runs toward the end of the season, continued that trend against Apollo’s starter and winner Brandon Hamilton. The Cougar never could solve the riddle of Hamilton’s sharp-breaking curveball and went down on strikes 10 times against the right-hander, many times swinging at pitches in the dirt.
For some reason, Apollo relieved Hamilton in the sixth inning with Zach Ranburger, who gave up a pair of hits, two walks and the only Cougar run of the day before they sent him back to third base and brought Hamilton back in to finish the game.
Grayson County, meanwhile used three pitchers in the game, beginning with junior right-hander Joseph Anthony, who was touched up for five runs, four of them earned in an inning-and-a-third on the mound.
Junior Kevin Pierce relieved Anthony with one out in the second inning. Pierce walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a two-run double (both runs charged to Anthony) to Eagle catcher Dalton West before striking out the next two batters to end the inning. Pierce pitched four and 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out five.
Dalton Logsdon pitched the seventh for the Cougars and gave up a run on two hits and struck out a pair.
Anthony could not find the plate at the start of the game, walking the first two batters and hitting the third to load the bases for the shortstop, Matthew Johnson, who sent a towering fly ball into the corner in right field to drive in the first two runs of the game. A third run scored later on a passed ball and the Eagles led 3-0 before the Cougars had come to bat.
Anthony retired the first batter he faced in the second and should have had the second, but first-baseman Justin Calvert could not handle a tricky hop on a bouncer by Keegan Bakos, and the Apollo first-baseman was safe on the error.
Anthony then hit his second batter, Dustin Vincent, and Cougar coach Danny Clark brought in Pierce to take over on the mound. Pierce walked Hamilton to load the bases, and West doubled off the fence in center field to drive in two to make it 5-0.
The Eagles added another run in the third when Tanner Edge tripled with one out, then scored on a ground-out by Matt McCarty.
The Cougars looked as if they would rally in the sixth against the reliever, Ranburger. Wyatt Skaggs doubled to the fence in right-center leading off the inning. Ranburger loaded the bases by walking Ty Davis and Joey Henry. Logsdon flew out to right, driving in Skaggs with the Cougars’ first run.
Jakob Clemons then was safe on an infield single to reload the bases for the Cougars, prompting the Eagles to bring Hamilton back to the mound. As he had done for the first five innings, Hamilton shut down the potential rally by retiring the next two batters.
That was it for the Cougars as Hamilton closed out the game in the seventh. He allowed a one-out single to Logan Ramsey, but Skaggs grounded into a game-ending double play.
The Eagles had added another run in the top of the seventh off Logsdon. West doubled leading off the inning, then scored on a one-out single from Wesley Purcell.
The Cougars close out their season with a record of 23-15.