Four was the magic number for Owensboro Catholic Thursday against Walton-Verona in the All “A” Classic Baseball State Championship at Holy Cross.
The Aces scored four runs in the top of the first, had four home runs in the game and cruised to a 12-2 win over the Bearcats for the fourth All “A” Classic title in program history.
“We played the game.”
Those were the first words said after the game by Catholic coach Derek Hibbs as they ended what could be the longest All “A” Classic baseball tournament in the organization’s history after the game was originally scheduled to be played April 25. But after school board decisions and rain, Thursday became the day Catholic and Walton-Verona had circled on their calendar.
It was the Aces that struck first and struck often.
“That’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Hibbs said. “As soon as we knew we were going to have to delay it out and end up facing (Travis) Smith, that was what we prepared for. Kudos to our guys jumping on him early. I thought we would score early but I didn’t think we’d hit three home runs in the first inning. That was big for us, the hype got up. They answered back in the bottom of the first, guy hit the home run. We thought it’d be close but Finley settled down and once he stayed in the zone, he was good and our guys kept putting pressure on them offensively.
“Even if we didn’t hit home runs or bombs, we took walks, we were selective … Didn’t swing at a ton of bad pitches, which is huge against a guy like that because he’s got a change, curve, slider, he’s got a full arsenal, not just a fastball.”
Walton-Verona sent future Kentucky Wildcat Travis Smith to the mound. Smith has dominated foes this season but the Aces didn’t get the memo, as the long ball was a friend of Catholics early in the game.
Junior Sam McFarland stepped to the plate to start the game and sent a shot over the wall for the 1-0 lead and a quick statement.
“(He’s) a really good pitcher,” McFarland said. “Had to go up there thinking straight up the middle. First at-bat, took it out of here but you never think that. When you do, it’s never that.”
After a walk by Smith to Luke Evans, Luke Scales then took a pitch to left to make it 3-0 Aces.
The damage wasn’t done yet as Catholic starting pitcher and tournament MVP Finley Munsey stepped up to the plate.
Like his two teammates before him, Munsey took Smith’s pitch over the wall to give his team a 4-0 lead before he even took the mound.
“It was huge,” Munsey said of the first inning. “My teammates got the bats going and gave me a comfy lead. It’s a lot easier to pitch when you’re up 4-0.”
The Bearcats responded with a two-run home run by Jimmy Shields to make it 4-2 but that’d be the last time W-V would get a runner across the plate.
Munsey settled in after the first and finished with seven strikeouts as he allowed just two hits in the game.
“It just feels amazing to put up another banner on the wall with all my teammates and friends,” Munsey said. “Just really played well today.”
After the impressive first, Smith sent the Aces down in order in the second before they added runs the next three innings, including a Luke Evans home run in the fifth to put the game away and head back to Owensboro early.
Munsey said he didn’t have any nerves coming into the game and he didn’t think his teammates did either.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think all the guys were ready to go. We wanted to play a couple Sundays again but it is what it is. Then last Wednesday, it got canceled again so we’ve been ready for a while. Just wanting to play.”
McFarland agreed and said they were ready to hit the field.
“We’ve been preparing for it for weeks, however long it’s been,” he said. “We were ready, coaches were ready. Came to practice every day prepared for this game.”
Hibbs said he hopes Thursday’s win gives them some momentum the rest of the way as their next three games are against top-20 opponents with McCracken County tonight and Hopkinsville and Lyon County on Saturday in Eddyville.
“Winning this was huge. It was one of our big goals,” he said. “With a normal All ‘A’ you’d have a day off to decompress but we don’t. We’re going to face a top-five team tomorrow. I like the fact that it’s at home. We’ll get a bus ride and then we’ll see how much sleep they get tonight but hopefully we’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.
“This was one goal. A goal of ours is winning region and then advancing as far as we can with that.”
The Aces capped off their dominant All “A” performance by outscoring their opponents 62-7 in six games but Hibbs and his team know there’s more work to be done.
“I’m very fortunate as a head coach to have a group like this together,” he said. “We’ve been together for a while. They know me, I know them and they motivate themselves. It’s a big kudos to them for the amount of work they’ve put in. They deserve this championship and we’re not done yet.”
Evans and Scales each finished with two RBIs for the Aces in the win as the duo also each scored three times. Scales and McFarland were the only Catholic players with multiple hits in the game as seven Aces had RBIs.
McFarland, Scales, Small, Mundy and Finley Munsey were named to the All-Tournament Team with Munsey earning MVP honors.
The Aces are back on the field tonight as they host McCracken County.
Owensboro Catholic 12, Walton-Verona 5 (5 innings)
OC 402 33 12 9 2
WV 200 00 2 2 2
WP: Finley Munsey (5 IP, 7 K, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB)
LP: Travis Smith (3.2 IP, 8 K, 5 H, 9 ER, 5 BB)
OC: McFarland (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R), Evans (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R), Scales (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R), F Munsey (1-1, HR, RBI, R), Mundy (1-3, RBI, R), E Munsey (1-2, 2B, RBI), Small (1-3, RBI), Blair (2 R)
WV: Krohman (R), Shields (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R), Mills (1-2, 2B)