It’s hard to beat a good team.
It’s even harder to beat a good team twice in one season and beating a team three times gets exponentially tougher.
In the 57th District finals, Paintsville was faced with the tall task of trying to beat the Johnson Central Golden Eagles for the third time this season. The Tigers weren’t able to capitalize and came up short, 2-1 in the most important meeting between the two this season, with a district championship on the line.
Both teams showed great defense and it became apparent quickly that this would be a low scoring game and the first to come alive at the plate would be the winner.
The scoring didn’t happen until the top of the fifth inning when Johnson Central broke the stalemate. Josh Slone got a walk to first. Matt Crum kept the runner moving with a bunt to put Slone on second. Chandler Spradlin was up next at-bat and struck out for one out. Connor Lemaster was up next in the batter’s box and connected on a hit to second base. Slone was able to score on the play with runners on first and third. Johnson Central wasn’t able to take advantage of the field position as Mason Kestner had a hit to first base for the out and ending the top of the fifth with Johnson Central leading, 1-0.
Paintsville answered when Gunner Collins singled off a hit to deep left field after both Harris Phelps and Jonah Porter hit pop flies to give the Tigers two outs. With a runner on first, two outs and down one, the Tigers needed something. Ashton Miller was at-bat, and struck out. The Tigers would have to wait to tie things up.
Coach Shawn Hall’s Golden Eagles didn’t let up in the sixth. Brock Butcher walked to first. Seth Fitch came in for Butcher. Keygan Pelfrey had a nice bunt to get on first with Fitch on second and no outs. Bryce Spence struck out on the next at-bat. Slone was up next and was out on a bunt that put Fitch on third and Pelfrey on second. While Matt Crum was at bat, a passed ball allowed Fitch to score to make it 2-0. Crum struck out to bring the game to the bottom of the sixth.
Paintsville’s Ashton Adams sparked the offense for the Tigers in the bottom of the sixth with a big hit to center field for a double. Zach Taylor was up next, but struck out. Baron Ratliff was up next in the rotation and a big hit to the gap in center field that scored Braden Branham who was in for Adams to make it 2-1.
The offense stalled out and the game moved on to the seventh inning.
Johnson Central’s Ryan Sartin-Slone managed a hit to a gap in left field for a double. The rest of the Golden Eagles’ offense struggled and after a fly ball from Spradlin, with the final two batters getting struck out.
The bottom was Paintsville’s last chance to steal the win. The game fell on the shoulders of Adams who was at-bat with two outs and the bases loaded. Adams hung in, eventually getting a fly ball straight into the glove of Sartin-Slone to end the game with Johnson Central coming out on top, 2-1.
The victory gives Johnson Central the 57th District title, and a No. 1 seed heading into the 15th Region Tournament at East Ridge.
Paintsville also advances to the 15th Region Tournament as well.