Red Devils fall short in 3rd Region Tournament, leaves excited for program’s future

May 22, 2023 | 12:03 am

Updated May 25, 2023 | 11:36 am

After a parade of hits and walks for both sides in the first inning led to an early 3-3 tie, it was the Hornets who came away with a 5-3 win over Owensboro to advance to the 3rd Region Semifinals behind a strong relief appearance from freshman Porter Hay.

Playing on their home turf, it was Hancock County that cranked up the intensity right out of the gate. A leadoff walk and single led to trouble for sophomore Cayden Ray on the bump, with a line drive flying off of sophomore Brady Benjamin’s glove at first into right for the first run of the game.

Freshman Elijah Hampton proceeded to throw senior Drew Lyday out trying to steal second shortly after, but a one-out single from senior Austin Volocko and a two-out single by senior Ryan Jones plated one each to give the Hornets an early 3-0 lead.

However, a trio of walks had the Red Devils in business with bases loaded and one out in the bottom half of the inning. It was sophomore Blake Kimbrell that delivered the big blow, doubling to right center to clear the bases and even things up at 3-3.

A dropped third strikeout seemed to be the end of the threat for junior Brock Tindle and the Hornets, but back-to-back walks loaded the bases with two outs. Tindle would come out of the game for Hay though, as he got sophomore Trevor DeLacey to pop out to send things to the second all tied up.

But from then on it became a pitcher’s duel, as Ray settled in after a bumpy first inning. The next six outs he earned were strikeouts, finishing the night with eight while allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks.

“He did a great job of settling in,” Fiorella said. “He was kind of frustrated there and that’s a testament to his growth. He may not have done that 10 weeks ago, definitely wouldn’t have done it last year, so we’re happy with that.”

His day ended after he surrendered a leadoff double in the top of the fifth, where sophomore Will Rickard took over in relief. A sac bunt attempt turned infield single caused some trouble though, as the runner later took second on an attempt to get in a pickle and score the runner from third. 

Rickard was able to get a big strikeout for the first out of the inning, but a sac fly to right field followed to give Hancock County a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth. But Kimbrell and Hallmark came up big, as a runner tried to score from second on the deep ball, but the duo was able to get the ball in quickly and Hallmark was able to gun the runner out at the plate to end the top of the fifth.

The Red Devils were struggling to scrounge up offense themselves though, as Hay managed to keep them scoreless going into the seventh. After Hancock County was able to get an insurance run in the top half of the inning, Hay surrendered a leadoff walk but sat down the next three batters to secure the 5-3 win and end Owensboro’s season in the first round of the 3rd Region Tournament.

The freshman righty for the Hornets finished the day having allowed just one hit, while striking out four and walking four in 6 ⅓ scoreless innings of relief.

The Red Devils had earned a number of base runners on the day—including nine walks—but were unable to come up with a big hit when needing runs. However, he was beyond proud of his team’s resilience, something that they’ve prided themselves on this season.

“We just didn’t cash in when we needed to,” Fiorella said. “We only had three hits. One of them came in the last inning. We started to barrel late, but two right to the center fielder, two right to the left fielder… Postseason runs are at a premium, especially when you get to the next level.” Two hits, it’s tough to win with that… I’ll tell you this though, our guys battled,” Fiorella said. “For only having two hits, we’re in the game the whole time. At no point did I ever feel like we were out of it and I don’t think they did either.”

Owensboro finishes the season with an overall record of 17-11, having won its first district title since 2018. So while they may not have gotten the result they wanted, the Red Devils and company are leaving having made significant progress as a program—with a hunger for more brewing.

“It’s a huge step forward,” Fiorella said. “Nobody would’ve thought we would be 6-2 and nobody thought we would’ve been in the discussion of, this is one of the teams that can win the regional tournament. And I think that that was true all the way up until May 15. So it is a step forward for a program. We gotta spend the off-season getting a little bit better, staying together, keep working and try to take the next step… It was good for our guys to feel this environment and be a part of this. I just hope the next time we’re here we have a little bit better result.”

May 22, 2023 | 12:03 am

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