Article:    
Baseball - Mustangs explode in 6th to win 5th straight regional title
6/4/2018 10:00 AM

Going into the sixth inning of McCracken County’s 8-3 win over Paducah Tilghman in the First Region championship game at Haas Field on Saturday, The Mustangs were behind 3-2 to Tilghman – which was playing in its first regional title game in six years.

Twice, the Tornado had the Mustangs down to their last strike.

The first time, after Rook Ellington walked on a 3-1 pitch from reliever Jackson Fristoe, James Michael Dodd drew a walk to put two on. Then, Will Sykes smacked an 0-2 pitch to right field, scoring Ellington and Dodd to put McCracken County up 4-3.

Tilghman never retook the lead, watching as the Mustangs scored five runs that inning and an insurance run in the top of the seventh.

“It was huge,” Sykes said. “I just saw everybody over there (in the dugout), and they wanted it so bad. So did I, and I was going to go get it. We never get uncomfortable (when losing). We always stay calm. We’re the most comfortable on our backs.”

With McCracken County ahead 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the fourth, Colbe Crim sent a 1-0 pitch from Dylan Schneider over the fence in right field, tying the game.

Tilghman took the lead on a wild pitch from McCracken reliever Kyle Smith with runners at second and third.

“(We were) up 3-2 in the sixth inning with two outs, nobody on base,” Tilghman coach Chris Johnson said. “And then we couldn’t find the strike zone, and then the big hit. And then they get (the bases) loaded and we give up an 0-2 hit right there. It’s tough to overcome.”

Tilghman’s future remains bright. It is graduating zero seniors on a team with three Division I commits – junior shortstop Eric Riffe to Murray State and Fristoe, the Tornado’s No. 2 starter also a third baseman to Kentucky, as well as Crim, Tilghman’s ace and its center fielder, who recently committed to Eastern Illinois.

“We’ve got a good chance,” Johnson said of his team’s ability to get back to the regional championship next season. “But, I don’t want to talk about next year. I’m still in this year with these guys I have right now.”

The focus for McCracken County now is on its return to the state tournament. Sykes was in the batter’s box, representing the last out in the state semifinals when the Mustangs lost to eventual state champion Pleasure Ridge Park.

He’s intent on that not happening again.

“Every time I’m up in a situation like that, I was up like that against St. X(avier) … it motivates me,” Sykes said. “That’s all I saw. It worked out for me this time.”

All-Region team: Calloway County: Garrett Scott, Lofton Pigg; Carlisle County: Corbin Hayden; Graves County: Jordyn Naranjo; Hickman County: Sam Gallimore; Marshall County: Austin Stockdale, Ty Buchmeier; Mayfield: Kyle Hurt; McCracken County: Elijah Wheat, James Michael Dodd, Rook Ellington (MVP), Will Sykes; Paducah Tilghman: Brady Betts, Colbe Crim, Eric Riffe.

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McCracken County 020 005 1 8 5 1

Paducah Tilghman 010 110 0 3 5 3

Schneider, Smith (5) and J.M. Dodd; Betts, Fristoe (5) and Hutchins.

WP: Smith. LP: Fristoe.

2B: PT- Betts. 3B: none. HR: PT- Crim. Top hitters: MC- Wheat 2-5, Sykes 1-2; PT- Crim 2-3. Records: MC: 32-5; PT: 28-11.

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