• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Bat Jackets season ends in region tournament

JACK OCKERMAN, shown pitching in the district championship game for the Woodford County High School baseball team, pitched in the team’s 11th Region Baseball Tournament opener on Monday, May 29, at Madison Southern, and helped the Bat Jackets score a 7-3 win over Lexington Christian Academy. (Photo by Steve Blake/multiexposures.com)

The Woodford County High School baseball season came to an end on Tuesday, May 30, at the 11th Region Baseball Tournament, when the Bat Jackets lost 7-3 to Sayre in the semifinals. Even with the loss, the Bat Jackets, who won the 41st District Tournament on April 28, had a great year under second-year head coach Paul Patterson. In 2016, Woodford finished 12-20 overall, 6-9 in region play and 4-3 in district play, which included an opening round loss in the district tournament. Flash forward to this season, and with a new mindset, and much more team camaraderie in part, thanks to solid senior leadership, Woodford finished the season 25-11 overall, 16-5 in region play, 7-1 in district play and champions of the 41st District Tournament. It was a remarkable turnaround, which has Woodford on the right path for future seasons. “The season was one heck of a turnaround,” said Patterson. “These guys all bought in and played together. They took pride in their defense by coming early to practice and staying after in order to get better. They also raised their team batting average nearly .100 percentage points from last year to this year. (And), our pitchers threw strikes at a high percentage and gave away less free bases. “The crazy part about this team is when the season ended, we were still getting better. These seniors became more coachable than I ever expected and were an absolute joy. To those guys, I just want to say thank you for making this a special season.” 11th Region Tournament Following its championship triumph in the 41st District tournament, Woodford opened their 11th Region tournament at Madison Southern on Monday, May 29, with a 7-3 win over Lexington Christian Academy. Getting the start for the Bat Jackets was senior Jack Ockerman, who also sealed the win over Franklin County for the team’s district title. In all, Ockerman pitched 5-2/3rd-innings and had eight strikeouts while giving up two runs on three hits and four walks. Junior Hunter Hilbert pitched 1-1/3rd innings and had two strikeouts while giving up one run on one hit. Woodford took the lead early by scoring two runs in the first inning. It began with one out and junior Sam Flora on third base, senior Caleb McNeely on second and junior Josh Hall on first. Sophomore Ben Browning came to the plate and hit a single into left field, which scored Flora to make it a 1-0 ball game. Then, with the bases still loaded with McNeely on third, Hall on second and Browning on first, and senior Alec Neff at bat, a passed ball scored McNeely to give Woodford a 2-0 lead. LCA scored one run in the top of the second to make it 2-1, but in the second, Woodford added another run to give the Bat Jackets a 3-1 lead. The run came when, with senior Seth Denton on first, Ockerman hit a sacrifice fly ball that scored Denton to give Woodford a 3-1 lead. LCA scored their second run in the fourth inning to make the score 3-2, but then Woodford responded with a four-run, fourth inning, that, ultimately, sealed the win, 7-3. The scoring began with Neff on first base and freshman Skyelar Johnson hitting a single into left field. Neff scored on a bad throw to make it 4-2, while Johnson made it to second. Then, with Johnson at third, Ockerman at second and Flora at first, McNeely hit a sacrifice fly ball into center field that scored Johnson to make it 5-2. The play also advanced Ockerman to third, while Flora stayed at first. Later in the inning, with two outs and sophomore Leo Guadagni as a courtesy runner for Ockerman at third, Flora at second and Hall at first, Browning singled to left field, which scored Guadagni to make it 6-2. Flora advanced to third and Hall was on second. Then, an error by the left fielder scored Flora to give the Bat Jackets a 7-3 lead, which was the winning score. “LCA was a really good team and they were playing well,” said Patterson. “They beat Paul Laurence Dunbar and Lexington Catholic, which allowed them to advance to their district championship and the 11th Region tournament. They played a solid game and they were playing hard for their coach. “(In) that game we were able to pitch Ockerman and he was really good. He had life on his fastball and was throwing his breaking ball for strikes. Most importantly, he competed and willed his team to a win. Behind him we had a terrific defense that played together and made all the routine plays.” In Woodford’s second round game against Sayre on Tuesday, May 30, the Bat Jackets fell behind early in the game when they allowed Sayre to score five runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a 7-0 lead. The Bat Jackets tried to rally, as they scored two runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth, but Sayre had the momentum and got the 7-3 win. Senior Parker Thomas got the start and pitched 1-1/3rd innings and gave up five runs on five hits, including two home runs. Also pitching in the game was junior Joe Sutherland, who pitched one inning and had one strikeout while giving up one hit and one walk. Senior Collin Murray pitched 1-1/3rd innings and gave up two runs on three this and one walk, while McNeely pitched 3-1/3rd inning and had five strikeouts and gave up only one hit. Woodford scored two runs in the fifth inning. With one out, and Browning on third and Johnson on second, sophomore Griffin Blankenship singled to center field to score the two runners to make it a 7-2 ball game. The Bat Jackets got their final run in the sixth inning when, with no outs and McNeely on third off a triple to right field, Hall hit a hard grounder and made it safely to first on an error on the throw, which allowed McNeely to score to make it 7-3. However, that was as close as Woodford got and Sayre got the win to end the Bat Jackets’ season. “The Sayre game is a hard pill to swallow,” said Patterson. “We went into the regional semifinal as the better team and our guys expected to win the game. We were better than them at every position and our guys competed. Unfortunately, it’s one of those losses that we won’t forget for a really long time. “We have to give Sayre credit, they pitched well, they got the big hits when they needed them, they were well coached, and they made the plays defensively in order to keep us off the scoreboard. I think if we play them ten times we would beat them nine. We just happened to catch them on their night.”

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