WHITESBURG — It’s hard enough to win one region title, but to win four in a row and five out of the last six is unheard of.
Well, that is until Tuesday night.
Hazard picked up a 14-2 win in five innings over Breathitt County in the 14th Region championship.
That win was Hazard’s fourth straight 14th Region title and five in the last six years.
“Four in a row,” Hazard coach John Meehan said. “That’s never been done. I’ve been around Hazard baseball since ’76 and nobody has done that in this region. What they’ve done is unprecedented, four in a row and five out of six. Again, it’s a credit to these kids. People probably get sick of me saying it. These kids get up at six in the morning and practice and I’m always telling them we got to work for it, we got to work for it. I’m real proud of them and we played really well this regional tournament.”
Breathitt County got on the scoreboard first. With the bases load, Isaac Burton hit an RBI single to give the Bobcats an 1-0 lead.
Breathitt County’s lead didn’t last long. In the bottom of the first, Hazard’s bats exploded. Andy Baker got hit-by-a-pitch to leadoff the bottom half of the inning. Kyle Johnson followed with an RBI triple to tie things up at 1-1. Dalton Baker hit an RBI single to push the lead to 2-1.
Bailey Blair reached with a bunt single. Andrew Ford reached on a bunt single to load the bases.
With the bases loaded an no outs, Jarrett Napier was hit-by-a-pitch to drive a run home and put the Bulldogs up 4-1. After a Breathitt County pitching change, Hazard’s Sawyer Patrick hit a two RBI single to push the lead to 6-1. Max Johnson followed by driving home a run on a sacrifice bunt. Andy Baker was hit-by-a-pitch for the second time in the inning.
With the bases loaded, Dalton Baker followed with a two RBI double to push the lead to 8-1. Bailey Blair followed with a two-run double to give the Bulldogs a commanding 10-1 lead after the first inning of play.
“With the loss of Trajon Campbell and his pulled hamstring, I didn’t sleep at all last night and I’ve been sick all day just worrying,” Hazard coach John Meehan said. “I wasn’t worrying about what they were going to do, but about what our team would do to come in and play well. And boom, those seniors came in and played well. That’s the thing that a lot of teams don’t have and that’s what these guys carry around with them and that’s, experience. The bats were good all through the regional. I’m proud of them and I think we’re going to represent this region very well. We get the 13th Region winner at Morehead Saturday.”
Andy Baker got the start and earned the win on the mound for the Bulldogs.
“It’s the best feeling in the world coming out here and winning the region,” Hazard’s Andy Baker said. “There’s nothing like it. The way we played, we hit the ball hard and just made all of the plays. We just did everything we had to do to get the win tonight. It was awesome.”
Hazard added two runs in the bottom of the second. Kyle Johnson hit a two-RBI double to push the lead to 12-1.
Breathitt County got a run back in the top of the third, but Hazard put the game away after that.
“It’s awesome knowing you’re going out on top with the boys that you’ve been playing with for years,” Andy Baker said. “There’s nothing better than that.”
With the win, Hazard (28-7) will advance to play the winner of the 13th Region Tournament. Corbin was scheduled to play Barbourville for the 13th Region championship last night. The Bulldogs will play the winner of that contest at 3:00 p.m. Saturday at Morehead State University in the semi-State 7.
“Knox Central is playing Corbin tonight,” Meehan said. “They put a whooping on us 18-3. We might get an opportunity to play them in a big ball park. I really don’t know why I was so worried about us tonight because they came in ready to play. They come in ready to play everyday. I think we have a pretty good shot.”
“It’s big and it’s going to be a totally different atmosphere,” Andy Baker said. “We’ll get back in the cage and get up early and get ready for Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to go.”
Estill County 3
Monday played host to the 14th Region Semifinal game where the Hazard Bulldogs put on a baseball clinic in their 10-3 win over the Engineers of Estill County.
As a team, the Bulldogs had 33 at bats notching 15 hits, putting them right under .500 on the day. Hazard brought in nine RBI’s in the contest and only had 4 batters strike out.
Napier got the start on the mound for the Bulldogs and pitched all seven innings where he accumulated 4 strikeouts, however what was most impressive about Napier’s Performance was the control and patience he showed all night. On top of that he showed ample amounts of trust in his fielders, getting down in the count on several occasions and not trying to force anything, just throwing it in the strike zone and allowing his teammates to handle the rest.
The connection between Hazard coach Meehan and his players was flawless. Meehan delivered signs to his players and in response those same young men delivering when called upon.
The play that summed up the dominance shown by the Bulldogs was a solo shot by Andy Baker in the third inning. The ball traveled to deep left-center field and the only question fans were asking was when it would come down. Baker crushed the ball after collecting two strikes in the first two pitches, but Meehan urged Baker to wait for his pitch. Baker took three straight balls before ripping into the 6th pitch and giving it a new area code.
The win helped the Bulldogs advance to the 14th Region championship for the fourth straight year where they have won five out of the past six appearances.
Jackson City 1
Hazard didn’t have any trouble getting past Jackson City Saturday in the opening round of the 14th Region Tournament at Letcher Central.
The Bulldogs had a huge day offensively scoring 17 runs and they ended the game in just three innings of play.
In the bottom of the first with the bases load, Campbell hit an infield single and a second run scored on an error by Jackson City. Blair followed with a two RBI double. The Bulldogs’ fifth run of the inning came on another Jackson City error.
Napier grounded out, but drove home Hazard’s sixth run of the inning. The Bulldogs got another run off of another Jackson City error.
In the bottom of the second, Hazard added eight more runs. Campbell hit a leadoff triple to get things started for the Bulldogs. Dalton Baker followed with an RBI double. Blair grounded out, but drove home a run. Garrett Miller followed with an RBI single. Kyle Johnson added an RBI double.
Campbell hit another triple in his second at of the inning; this time he drove home two base runners. Dalton Baker added another RBI double. Blair followed with an RBI single and Ford added an RBI single.
When the smoke cleared in the second inning Hazard held a 15-0 lead.
The Bulldogs added two more runs to end the game early in the bottom of the third.
Kyle Johnson picked up the win on the mound for the Bulldogs.