LEXINGTON, Ky. – Coaches like routines, and Monday was anything but routine for Brian Wise and his North Bullitt High School baseball team.
But after a five-hour rain delay, an impromptu lunch trip to Fazoli’s and hours of playing Trivia Crack, the Eagles finally got to play baseball and ultimately kept their season alive.
North Bullitt overcame a 3-0 deficit in the first inning and shook off the elements to beat Hopkinsville 6-4 in the first round of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
It didn’t feel (55 degrees at first pitch) or look (four combined errors in the first inning) much like postseason baseball early, but the Eagles advanced to the state quarterfinals for the second straight year.
“It has been one heck of a day,” Wise said. “It’s out of the norm. This is really strange, and I worried to death about it all day.”
North Bullitt (31-11) ran its winning streak to 10 and advanced to face the McCracken County-Highlands winner in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal. McCracken County and Highlands originally were scheduled to play Monday night, but their game was moved to 10 a.m. Tuesday as the KHSAA rearranged the tournament schedule because of Monday’s rain.
The North Bullitt-Hopkinsville game was set to start at 11 a.m. but was delayed until 4:09 p.m. Wise said he and his players found several ways to kill time as they waited out the delay on the Pepsi Party Deck beyond the right-field fence.
“There’s only so many games of Trivia Crack we can all play up there to kill time,” he said.
Wise said the delay likely affected his team early, as it committed three errors in the top of the first inning. Tyler Graham’s two-run single gave Hopkinsville (22-14) a 2-0 lead, and the third miscue of the inning allowed the Tigers to take a 3-0 edge.
“We’ve played such good defense the last four or five weeks of the year that you almost wonder, ‘Was (the delay) part of it?’” Wise said. “I don’t know, but I really think there might have been something to that today.”
The Eagles answered right back in the bottom of the first, loading the bases on singles by Daulton Walls, Chance Egnor and Jacob Kelly and pulling within 3-1 on a bases-loaded walk to Dalton Casey.
With two out and the bases loaded, Keaton Reitz hit a ground ball to third baseman Dustin Pendleton, who appeared to try to tag courtesy runner Austin Trammell heading to third base but missed. Pendleton then made a high throw to first base, allowing two North Bullitt runners to score and making it 3-3.
Hopkinsville coach Greg Perry thought Trammell could have been called out for interference with Pendleton.
“(The umpire) saw it one way, and I saw it another way,” Perry said. “But that didn’t cost us the game.”
Pendleton’s RBI single gave Hopkinsville a 4-3 lead in the third, but Walls’ sacrifice fly in the fourth tied it at 4. The Eagles took advantage of two Tigers errors in the fifth to take a 6-4 lead, also getting an RBI single from Henson.
Meanwhile, Ryan Henson (9-1) settled down on the mound, retiring 11 of the final 14 batters he faced. For the game he allowed eight hits and just one earned run and struck out five.
“I felt kind of sluggish at the beginning of the game,” he said. “Once I settled in and our defense started rolling, we played behind all of the energy and I loved being out there.”
Kelly led the Eagles at the plate, going 2 for 3. Easton McGee went 3 for 4 for the Tigers, who stranded 10 baserunners.
“A lot of times we had guys up that we wanted to be up,” Perry said. “You strand 10 runners, it’s going to come back to haunt you.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
HOPKINSVILLE 301 000 0 – 4 8 3
NORTH BULLITT 300 120 x – 6 7 3
WP – Henson (9-1). LP – Brown (5-6). 2B – McKenzie (NB).