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Tuesday night’s 30th District Tournament semifinal between the Shelby County and Spencer County baseball teams came down to one hit.
The Bears got the big one they needed, but the Rockets never did, as Spencer County ended Shelby County’s season with a 4-2 victory at the Shelby County Athletic Complex.
Josh Ferency’s 3-run double in the second inning was the difference as the third-seeded Bears advanced to Wednesday night’s district final against Collins.
“One hit, if we could’ve just gotten that one hit,” Rockets Coach Bart “Rudy” Roettger said. “But that’s the game of baseball. I told the guys afterwards, ‘How many times have we been the team that had that one hit?’”
Shelby County junior Dillon Boone limited Spencer County to two hits in the Rockets’ 4-0 victory over the Bears on April 30 in Taylorsville. This time around, though, Spencer County got four hits off of him in the first 1 1/3 innings.
“I’d throw him every time in a win-or-go-home situation,” Roettger said of Boone, who entered the game with an 8-0 record and a 1.43 earned-run average. “He just had one little bad inning.”
Boone gave up a one-out single in the top of the first before the second-seeded Rockets (24-10-1), who came in ranked 21st in the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 25, nearly took the early lead in the bottom of the inning.
That’s when Kipp Moore earned a leadoff walk from Spencer starter Lance Shelton, stole second and took third on a one-out error. That was as far as he’d go, though. Kam Bruner flied out to shallow center field, and Kevin Veeley grounded out.
The Bears (21-9) broke through in the second.
Boone walked Colin Travis and Nick Vuick to start things before Brian Riggs reached on a bunt single. Then, after missing badly with a pair of swings earlier in his at-bat, Ferency, the team’s No. 8 hitter, drove Boone’s fifth offering to the fence in right-center field for a double that emptied the bases.
The next batter, Jacob Cole, sacrificed Ferency to third before Chase Barnes’ single through the left side brought him home and chased Boone, who gave up four earned runs on four hits while walking two, in favor of Tyler Eades.
Shelby County made up some ground in the bottom of the third when Moore led off with a double down the left-field line, moved to third on Kyler Dugle’s ground out and scored on Bruner’s ground out.
The Bears threatened to add to their lead in the top of the fifth, when they quickly loaded the bases (thanks to a hit by a pitch, a single and a walk) against Eades. However, senior Jakub Noonan relieved Eades and helped the Rockets escape by striking out Travis, getting Vuick to foul out and Riggs to fly out.
Carrying over that momentum Bruner led off the bottom of the inning with a double to the right-center-field gap. He moved to third on Veeley’s ground out and scored on Zach Holmes’s single to right field.
Holmes, however, was forced out at second when Austin Rhodes’ blooper (off Vuick, the new Spencer pitcher) fell just inside the foul line in shallow right field, and Rhodes was caught stealing moments later.
That was Shelby County’s final threat.
The Rockets, who stranded seven baserunners in the first four innings (two each in the second, third and fourth), were retired in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
“I felt like we had good at-bats tonight, [but] we just couldn’t get that hit when we needed to,” Roettger said. “We just couldn’t capitalize.”
Shelton picked up the victory for Spencer, allowing two earned runs on three hits while walking six and striking out five.
“Shelton is as good as anyone in our region,” Roettger said. “He elevated his fastball, and we jumped at it.”
Shelby County, which finished with just four hits, had eight strikeouts, five groundouts and five fly outs.
It was the final game for seven seniors – Bruner, Veeley, Noonan, Eades, Rhodes, Kyle Durbin and Nathan Hayes.
“This group has sixty-three wins as a senior class after the split, and every year they improved their win total,” Roettger said. “They proved a lot of people wrong…they made me very proud.”
SPENCER COUNTY 4, SHELBY COUNTY 2
Spencer County 040 000 0 – 4 7 1
Shelby County 001 010 0 – 2 4 2
Lance Shelton, Nick Vuick (5) and Nathan Connard. Dillon Boone, Tyler Eades (2), Jakub Noonan (5) and Kevin Veeley. W – Shelton. L – Boone (8-1). 2B – Josh Ferency (Spencer), Kipp Moore (Shelby), Kam Bruner (Shelby). Records – Spencer County 21-9, Shelby County 24-10-1.