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Next week’s 30th District baseball tournament is wide open, according to Shelby County Coach Bart “Rudy” Roettger, despite the fact that the 4-team field includes two ranked teams.
“I have said all year, any team in the 30th District is capable of not only winning the district but the Eighth Region [as well],” said Roettger, who is in his sixth season on the job. “This is, by far, the strongest this district has been since I have been here. So it should be fun starting next Tuesday.”
That evening top-seeded Collins (27-6, 3-0) will take on fourth-seeded Anderson County (9-18, 0-3), the two-time defending district champ, at 6 p.m. at the Shelby County Athletic Complex. The host Rockets (24-8-1, 2-1), seeded No. 2, will meet third-seeded Spencer County (18-8, 1-2) at around 8 p.m. The district final is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the SCAC.
“If you want to see good pitching, the SCHS athletic complex will be the place to be,” Roettger said. “We have a pitching staff that does a great job of pitching to their strengths. Collins has a collegiate staff, for crying out loud, Spencer has a great two-headed monster of [Lance] Shelton and [Nick] Vuick, and Anderson County has some nice young arms that have kept them in ball games versus top-flight teams all year.”
The top-seeded Titans boast University of Kentucky recruit Austin Perry (7-2, 2.58 earned-run average) as well as unbeaten senior Dan Sanders (9-0, 1.45 ERA) and junior Zac Wiley (5-1, 2.28 ERA). Seniors David Decker, Buddy Johnson and Nate Clifton round out the staff.
“We will need to have solid pitching and defense,” said Collins Coach Roy Bailey, whose team beat Anderson County, 4-2, on May 3. “Our pitchers will have to keep us in the game by throwing a lot of strikes, but, maybe just as important, if our hitters can have quality at-bats, we can hopefully put some pressure on offensively.”
Clifton is hitting .400 for the Titans, who have a collective batting average of .320 and are ranked 11th in the Kentucky Prep Baseball Report Top 25 as well as the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association poll. They are seeking their first district title after losing to Anderson County, 10-7, in the final in 2011 and to the Rockets, 10-8, in last year's district semifinals.
“The tournament games are always played closer,” said Bailey, whose team beat Spencer County, 5-0, April 22 and Shelby County, 1-0, May 8, “so solid, fundamental baseball will always be a key.”
That has been one of the keys this season for Shelby County, which is 22nd in the PBR poll and 21st in the KHBCA.
“I am very happy about the year we have had so far,” said Roettger, whose team lost to Anderson County, 7-1, in last year’s district final. “Our guys play the game the right way. It is very rewarding to have seen these kiddos grow as baseball players and young men over the last three years. So, I expect these young men to be ready when the postseason starts. They seem to gravitate toward big-game situations.”
The Rockets are led by senior infielder Kam Bruner (a .417 batting average with only four strikeouts in 124 plate appearances), junior shortstop Kipp Moore (.366, 46 runs), senior catcher Kevin Veeley (.330, 27 RBIs) and junior Dillon Boone (8-0, 1.43 ERA), a left-handed pitcher.
“Before the year started the guys came up with what we call the ‘Shelby County way,’ and included in this mantra was their mission, vision and character of a Shelby County baseball player,” Roettger said. “Their vision all year has been to win twenty-five games, to win the 30th District tourney and bring the Eighth Regional championship back to SCHS. So, our players believe they can achieve all of the goals.
“Now in order for this to happen, we have to have some things go right. We have to play good defense, which our defense has improved over the course of the season, continue to get good pitching and have production from our whole lineup. The biggest difference between last year and this year is the production of our entire lineup. We don't plan on changing anything. We will do everything we can in the next week to get us firing on all cylinders on Tuesday.”
That’s when the four teams will be whittled to two.
“Don't be surprised to see the team that limits the team to the smallest amount of freebies given up to come out ahead next week. Any team is capable of exploiting mistakes,” Roettger said.
30th District Tournament
At Shelby County Athletic Complex
Collins (27-6, 3-0) vs. Anderson County (9-18, 0-3), 6 p.m.; Shelby County (24-8-1) vs. Spencer County (18-8, 1-2), 8 p.m.
Final, 6 p.m.
SS Logan Bailey (.301, 32 runs, 19 RBIs); CF Nate Clifton (.400, 9 doubles, 4 triples, 33 runs, 32 RBIs); C Zac Wiley (.352, 8 doubles, 7 triples, 2 HRs, 26 runs, 34 RBIs); 2B-OF Buddy Johnson (.303, 6 doubles, 3 HRs, 27 runs, 26 RBIs); P-OF David Decker (.367, 6 doubles, 20 runs, 10 RBIs); 1B-OF-P Austin Perry (.307, 6 triples, 18 runs, 23 RBIs); 3B Mason Jeffries (.371, 8 doubles, 18 runs, 18 RBIs); 1B-DH Dan Sanders (.321, 5 doubles, 22 RBIs).
RHP Sanders (9-0, 1 SV, 1.45 ERA, 71 K’s in 53 innings); RHP Perry (7-2, 2.58 ERA, 55 K’s in 40.2 innings); RHP Zac Wiley (5-1, 2.28 ERA, 39 K’s in 30.2 innings); RHP Decker (3-0, 1.68 ERA, 34 K’s in 25 innings); RHP Johnson (2-1, 2 SV, 3.03 ERA, 38 K’s in 34.2 innings); LHP Clifton (0-1, 3 SV, 2.47 ERA, 17 K’s in 11.1 innings).
SS Kipp Moore (.366, 10 doubles, 46 runs, 24 RBIs); 3B Kyler Dugle (.395); 2B Kam Bruner (.417, nine doubles, 30 RBIs, 30 runs); C Kevin Veeley (.377, 27 RBIs); RF Zach Holmes (.351, 27 runs, 18 RBIs); CF Austin Rhodes (.281, 22 runs, 24 RBIs); 1B-P Dillon Boone (.209, 19 RBIs); LF Kyle Durbin (.267, 27 runs); DH-P Tyler Eades (.286, 19 RBIs).
LHP Boone (8-0, 1 SV, 1.43 ERA, 42 K’s in 49 innings); RHP Eades (4-4, 2.58 ERA, 22 K’s in 43.1 innings); RHP Moore (5-1, 1.77 ERA, 32 K’s in 31.2 innings); RHP Bruner (4-0, 2.10 ERA, 22 K’s in 26.2 innings); RHP Jakub Noonan (0-3, 1 SV, 13 K’s in 16.1 innings).