LEXINGTON, Ky. West Jessamine’s baseball team has had its share of comebacks this season, so why should the first round of the state baseball tournament be any different?
The “Cardiac Colts” trailed twice, then gave up a three-run lead only to score the last five runs to knock off Ballard 11-6 at Whitaker Bank Park. Trey Merida went 3-for-4 and drove in four, while Jonathan Jackson drove in three while going 2-for-4.
But Maxx Mahon (6-0) won the game for the Colts (33-7) on the mound and at the plate. After he surrendered a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth, he redeemed himself in the next frame with the bases loaded and two out. After Kyle Riesenberg got the first two Colts out in the inning, he allowed singles to Tucker Greer and Merida. Kendall Peters then reached on second baseman Nick Jackson’s fielding error.
Facing the sidearmer Riesenberg (3-3), Mahon worked the count full and then fouled off four pitches, fastballs inside. The senior said he was waiting for some “outside junk,” but he finally got enough of the 10th pitch to hit a chopper up the middle. It looked like it might sneak through. Nick Jackson dove to snag it, but with the runners moving on the pitch, Peters barely beat the lunging Jackson to the bag.
Greer scored and Merida kept going around third to give the Colts an 8-6 lead.
“It just kind of found that awkward spot in our infield to where it made us really make a superb play,” Ballard coach David Trager said. “We were, I guess, a half-step too late.”
Mahon would make that lead stick, allowing just two hits over the final two innings to advance the Colts into a Thursday quarterfinal against Elizabethtown, the No. 6 team in the state coaches’ poll.
“We’ve fought all year,” said Mahon, whose team needed a three-run rally in the seventh inning to beat Garrard County 6-5 for the 12th Region title Saturday. “It has been an absolute battle. They call us the ‘Cardiac Colts.’ We’ve put ourselves in situations we might not want to be in, but we’ve always just fought it out and we persevered this whole season. So I guess that’s the definition of our whole team.”
Both teams played small ball to score their first runs. A Jonathan Jackson groundout scored Peters to give the Colts a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. In the Bruins half, catcher Jack McCreery drew a walk. Then Riesenberg reached on shortstop Ryan Layne’s error. After Kyle Routt bunted them over and Nick Jackson popped out, Matt Lewis’ single up the middle gave the Bruins a one-run lead.
Jonathan Jackson drove in his second run in the fourth to tie the game, but McCreery and Riesenberg reached again, leading to a Routt sacrifice fly scoring Jackson Millhollon, the courtesy runner for the catcher, to put Ballard back up.
West Jessamine would touch up Tyler Horsley and Jordan Adell for four runs in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run single by Troy Merida, Trey’s twin brother. Mahon would then come into pitch, relieving Joe Ivey, but the Bruins would tie it in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a two-run single by Broc Kuzeri and an RBI single by Riesenberg.
That set the stage for the Cardiac Colts, who scored their final five runs all with two outs as Trey Merida capped the scoring with a three-run double in the seventh.
“I just thought it was an overall fun game,” Colts coach Jody Hamilton said.
Ballard (23-16-1), which used five pitchers in an attempt to keep the Colts off-balance at the plate, entered the tournament on a five-game winning streak after finishing the regular season with four straight losses.
“We walked in here with our heads up, and we’ll walk out of here with our heads up just as much,” Trager said.
West Jessamine 010 142 3 – 11 11 2
Ballard 020 130 0 – 6 8 2
WP – Maxx Mahon (6-0). LP – Kyle Riesenberg (3-3). 2B – Tucker Greer (WJ), Trey Merida (WJ), Jordan Adell (B). Records – West Jessamine 33-7, Ballard 23-16-1.