Johnson County has always been a hot bed for baseball talent. From Johnnie LeMaster to Willie Blair, the area has never been without overachievers on the diamond.
That still rings true today as the Paintsville Tigers and the Johnson Central Golden Eagles vie for the 15th Region title nearly every year.
As we approach mid-season, a few standout players from each team are among the state’s best in several statistical categories. Here is a rundown of where the Johnson Central and Paintsville players stand in the state’s rankings at this point in the season.
As of April 30th, the KHSAA has Johnson Central’s Ryley Preece listed as 14th in the state in batting average at .531.
In 25 games played for the Golden Eagles this season, he is 43 for 81 with 11 doubles, four triples and four home runs.
Paintsville’s Gunner Collins comes in ranked 21st. Collins is batting .501. In his 23 games, he is 36 for 71 with five doubles, one triple and six long balls.
Speaking of long balls, until last Friday, the Tigers’ Seth Williams was leading the state of Kentucky in home runs.
The Louisville commit now sits second with 10.
The new leader is Danville’s Ethan Wood with 12.
But, let’s look at the numbers.
Wood has played in 26 games compared to Williams’ 17. Wood also has 76 at bats to Williams’ 50 plate appearances. Yet, he just leads Williams by two.
Paintsville’s Collins is also tied for ninth in the home run category with six in his 71 trips to the plate.
The Golden Eagles dominate the hits category.
Preece comes in ranked third overall with 43 hits in his 81 at bats.
Rounding out the top five is Johnson Central’s Hunter McCloud with 42 hits in 88 trips to the plate.
Directly behind him at sixth is Johnson Central shortstop Ryan Sartin-Slone with 41 hits in 87 plate appearances.
The Tigers’ Collins again makes the list at No. 15 with 36 hits and Johnson Central’s Chayce Meade comes in at 20th with 34 hits in his 79 trips to the batter’s box.
Preece is tied for eighth in the state in doubles with 11 in 81 at bats and knotted up at ninth along with teammate Meade in triples at four apiece.
Preece is also the ninth most walked batter in the state of Kentucky with 22 base-on-balls.
Paintsville’s Jake Hyden comes in tied for 15th with 20 walks.
The Golden Eagles’ Blake Delong is tied for 20th just behind Hyden with 19.
As we move on to slugging percentage, Williams takes the sixth spot for Paintsville with a 1.120 slugging percentage.
Preece is 20th for Johnson Central with a 0.914 slugging percentage.
Williams also comes in 12th in the RBI category with 34 runs batted in just 50 at bats. The Golden Eagles’ McCloud makes the list at 17th with 31 RBI’s in 88 trips to the plate. And teammate Delong follows directly tied at 18th with 30 driven in in just 69 plate appearances.
Preece leads the state in runs scored.
In his 81 trips to the plate, he has scored 45 times.
Tied for 11th is McCloud with 35 runs scored.
Paintsville’s Braxton Ratliff comes in at 17th crossing the plate 34 times in his 77 at bats.
The Tigers are perfect when it comes to running the base paths. Leadoff man Hyden ranks third in the state in stolen bases. He has not been thrown out on an attempt this season as of yet, as he is a perfect 27 for 27.
Hyden’s teammate Collins, who comes in at 14th is perfect in his stealing bags as well. He is a flawless 22 for 22 on the season.
The one common denominator with these young men on the leader boards and the future for baseball at Paintsville and Johnson Central are most of these players are underclassmen. They will be back next season. It will be telling to see how much these players improve from this season to next year. If they continue on the path they are on.