Rowan County lived up to the hype last Tuesday, May 28, as they won their second regional title in three seasons.
“They have had an unbelievable season and they just want to keep playing,” said Rowan County coach Scott Collins.
The 16th Region favorite swept Ashland, 12-2, after getting off to a shaky start. The Vikings allowed three on in the first inning and Evan Dickison scored on a wild pitch. It was the first time in seven games that the Vikings had given up a run.
“It had been a while since we had given up a run and for them to jump out on us early. I was curious to see how we would respond,” said Collins.
The Vikings answered by scoring two in the second. AJ Hacker and Devon Stevens started the inning with singles to right field. Corey Binion’s sacrifice fly deep into centerfield allowed both Hacker and Stevens to score.
The Tomcats tied it back up in the third before Rowan was able to break away. Robbie Francis, Zach Greene and Richie Hall strung together three hits to start the third inning. Francis scored on hard Hall’s hard ground ball to right field.
With two left on and no outs, it was looking bad for the Vikings, but Hacker gave them back some life when he reached over the fence at first base to catch a foul ball.
“I have dreamed about plays like that my whole life So, the fact that I actually happened and I actually caught that was crazy. It was probably my favorite catch I have ever had,” said Hacker.
Shawn Church ground out to second base, Stevens, and Mason Moore, pitching for the Vikings, struck out Asher Stevens to get them out of a jam.
Moore pitched a complete game for the Vikings. He gave up two runs on three hits, walked two and struck out eight.
“I just had to let the first inning go. People give up runs and in this type of game you can’t let that affect you. I blocked that out of my mind. I had to keep pounding the strike zone and let my team make plays for me,” said Moore.
The Vikings scored two more in the third and fourth, and ended the game with six runs for a 10 run mercy in the fifth.
Matthew Gagliano scored on a wild pitch after drawing a walk and Shane Taylor scored on Stevens sacrifice fly to right field in the third. Chase Alderman scored on a wild pitch and Aiden Leuenberger when Gagliano flied out to right field.
Taylor got the fifth inning going with a single. The Vikings drew four walks and hit four singles in the final inning.
Nick Eastham’s game-winning single bounced over second and into the out field to drive in Ryan Mullen for the 12th run.
“It was a 3-0 count. I was waiting for coach to give me the go ahead to hit. He threw a ball down the middle and I got a good stick on it. It was celebration after that,” said Eastham.
Mullen had reached first with a single that drove in Gabe Markwell and Alderman for the 10th and 11th runs.
The Vikings had eight hits. Hacker went two-for-two at the plate and Taylor hit two-for-three. Mullen, Eastham, Stevens and Alderman had the remaining four hits.
“Having lost to them in the second game of the season, we came out here with a chip on our shoulder. We knew we had to hit and back up our pitcher,” said Hacker.
The Vikings advanced to the first round of the State tournament last Saturday at Morehead State University.