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Rockets split two games at Fayette County Inv.

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By Todd Martin

The SCHS baseball team got strong pitching performances in two one-run games Saturday.

Nolan Mills pitched the Rockets to a 2-1 win over West Jessamine Saturday morning and Jordan Burk pitched well in a 5-4 loss to Dunbar in the afternoon during the Rockets' split in the Fayette County Invitational. Friday's game against Eastern was rained out.

"I told the guys that I was very proud of their effort on Saturday," SCHS head coach Bart Roettger said. "I told them I had circled this week on the calendar at the beginning of the season because I wanted to come back up here and show my team off. I thought they represented the program very nicely and showed that we're going to be a team to be reckoned with for several years."

In the first game the Rockets jumped ahead of West Jessamine early and held on for the win. John Hunter's RBI double highlighted a two-run inning, and from there the team's pitching and defense took over.

"Nolan Mills persevered through some tough innings," Roettger said. "He got out of a few spots with the bases loaded or two runners on and one out. I take my hat off to him, because he pitched an outstanding game."

Tyler Layton came in to get the save in the seventh, and Roettger said Layton could not have entered in a more difficult situation.

"He came in with one out in the seventh and West Jessamine's best hitter at the plate with a 1-2 count," the coach said. " He got him out and stayed in for the save. We brought him in because we knew we he could get the strike out."

Layton's strong work as a closer in the past week or two has given Roettger a tough decision to make.

"We're trying to figure out if we keep him in that closer's role because he does so well and he makes our team better defensively in the field, or do we put him back in the rotation because he's one of our best pitchers," he said. "We're going to have to decide at some point."

The second game shaped up as a big one for a couple of different reasons. Not only was the game against Dunbar a rematch of last season's state championship game, but it also pitted coach Roettger against his former team.

"The guys were really looking for some redemption from last year, and I have to say, I really wanted to win this one, too," he said. "I thought we played well, but the biggest difference in the game was that Dunbar was able to get some runs with runners in scoring position, and we left nine runners on base in the game."

Burk pitched well for the Rockets, never allowing more than one run in an inning, but the Rockets' bats took a little too long to get warmed up.

Trailing 4-0 going into the seventh, Shelby County finally woke up.

Burk got things rolling by getting on base off a Dunbar error, and Clay Minor followed with a hit. Eric Standafer then knocked the Rockets' first run in with a double. Jacob Livers then came up as a pinch-hitter and scored two runs when Dunbar dropped his fly ball. Daniel Davenport appeared to keep the rally alive when his line drive looked like it was trapped by a diving Dunbar outfielder, but the home plate umpire ruled it a catch to end the inning.

"That was really unfortunate, because we could've done some things with runners at first and third," Roettger said. "But it was an exciting game, and if a few balls bounced our way we could've won it. I think we showed some people what we can do."

Roettger said the game shouldn't have come down to that last inning.

"If we are a little more opportunistic at the plate, then we come back home really happy," he said. "Overall, we weren't that upset because I thought we played well, but we have to do a better job with runners on base throughout the game so we don't get stuck in that position in our last at bat."

The Rockets will end the regular season Friday with a rematch against Butler. Shelby faced Butler in the Southern Invitational on April 7 and lost 14-1, but Roettger said his team didn't play anywhere near their potential in that game.

"We're excited to get to face them again, and show them that we're a much better team than that."