Andrew Trame pitches for Scott.
TAYLOR MILL – The baseball teams at Scott and Simon Kenton showed much neighborly pride in their school district last June, when both teams qualified for the KHSAA state baseball tournament. As a major show of sportsmanship, both teams sat in Whitaker Bank Ballpark to watch the other compete in their first-round matchups and root them on.
Wednesday night, the two rivals went back to their normal routine of trying to beat each other on the diamond. They convened at Scott with rosters that looked vastly different from last year’s regional championship squads, but still with veteran pieces that hope to lead their teams back to the state tourney.
It was SK’s veterans that ultimately set the pace in the game, as the Pioneers posted a 3-0 win over the Eagles to improve to 5-2. Scott fell to 4-2.
Both teams are dealing with the pressure to repeat, particularly the Pioneers, who advanced all the way to the state finals before falling to St. Xavier.
“I don’t think we’re trying to live up to it,” said senior Sean Lawrence. “We know we lost some guys from last year. We lost nine seniors. We know every team wants to come out and compete with us because we’re state runner-up and we’re going to get a dogfight every time, but I think we’re ready for them.”
Setting the tone Wednesday was senior Robert Smith, who hurled a complete-game, four-hit shutout.
“Robert single-handedly won that game for us,” said SK head coach Troy Roberts. “He dominated on the mound. He had two rough innings and got out of it every time.”
Smith gave up two hits and a walk in the first inning before striking out Eli Sowder with the bases loaded to end the threat. Smith allowed just one hit in the next five innings before running into trouble in the seventh with the Pioneers up, 3-0. He allowed one single and hit the next two batters to load the bases. Janzen Wilder then lined out to SK second baseman Trent Kincaid, who went to the bag for an unassisted double play to end the game.
That preserved Smith’s chances for the complete-game because Roberts was ready to replace him with junior Corey Reynolds for the next batter.
“He was at 85 pitches and I only wanted him to do 80,” Roberts said. “He wanted the shutout so I said if you can make it quick. I have confidence in Corey but it was about getting Robert the opportunity to finish the game. He has nine days until his next game. He wanted it and he went out and got it.”
“Scott has a good team,” Smith said. “They’re not going to give up, as you saw in the last inning, but we’re not going to give up, either. I was just hitting my spots.”
Smith, staked to a 2-0 lead, helped provide the third run in the fourth inning. He hit a one-out double and was replaced by pinch-runner Nick Abell. After a single by Austin Braunwart moved Abell to third, Kincaid reached on a two-out error to plate Abell and make it 3-0.
Lawrence drove in the first two runs of the game in the second inning on a one-out double, plating Bobby Cole who had singles and Ryan Franzen, who had walked.
“I think we played well,” Lawrence said. “We had a good round of BP, came out and just played our game, tried to be aggressive at the plate. With Robert out there I know he’s going to throw strikes and give up ground balls, and I have confidence in our ability to make plays.”
Lawrence is the returning ace of the Pioneers, and Smith is looking for a big season on the mound after being third on the pitching staff last season. Lawrence played shortstop Wednesday and was set to pitch in a 32nd District seeding game against Walton-Verona Thursday. Against Scott, he had two hits and is hitting .500 for the year. Half of his 12 hits for the year are for extra bases, four triples and two doubles.
“Sean is a tough out. He gets himself out more than the pitcher gets him out,” Roberts said. “In my opinion, he’s the Eighth Region player of the year.”
First baseman Zach Mann, a transfer from Community Christian Academy, a non-KHSAA school in Independence, had two of the four hits for the Eagles, who are defending 10th Region champs.
“We’re going to play a lot of close games. That means we really have to pitch well because we lost a lot of offense,” said Scott head coach Jeff Trame. “We have a lot of pitching back and our defense has to get it done. Today, a couple of bad pitches to their best hitter and you lose 3-0. It was a very good ball game. We lost to a very good pitcher.”