In a collapse of monumental proportions, the Cougar baseball team gave up six runs to Butler County in the top of the seventh inning and lost the championship of the 12th District Tournament 10-9.
The Cougars led 9-0 after four innings and still led 9-4 heading into the seventh, when the Bears sent 12 men to the plate and scored six times to steal the championship.
Alex Smith was the losing pitcher. He cruised through the first four innings before giving up three runs in the fifth. The Bears made it 9-4 with a run in the sixth after two were out. He then gave up three hits and three runs in the seventh before being relieved by Noah Bullock.
Bullock proved to be ineffective. He hit the first batter he faced before giving up a run-scoring single to Carter Graham. He struck out Ross West for the second out of the inning, but hit Hunter McKee to load the bases.
He uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to cross the plate before walking Warren Cameron to load the bases once again. He then plunked Duane Daniels with a pitch, his third hit-batsman in the inning, to drive in what turned out to be the winning run.
Head coach Danny Clark took Bullock out at that point and brought Scott back to the mound, and he was able to record the final out, but the damage had been done.
The Cougars started well in the bottom of the seventh, with Caine Smith singling to lead off the inning. Dain Hawkins then hit a rope to center that was caught there by Graham. Smith was running all the way on the play and was easily doubled off at first base. Andrew Haycraft then grounded to third to end the game.
The Cougars took an early 1-0 lead with a run in the first inning. Bullock was hit by a pitch from starter Zach Smith and stole second base. Bullock moved to third on an infield single by Briley Napier, then scored on a ground out by Smith.
The Cougars made it 2-0 with a run in the second inning. Haycraft tripled to straight-away centerfield, then scored on a wild pitch.
The Cougars then sent 11 men to the plate and scored seven times in the fourth inning to lead 9-0. With one out, Haycraft and Noah Brown had back-to-back singles, then Haycraft scored on a single to right by Gavin Childress.
Ryan Johnson then grounded out to third, with Brown coming in to make it 4-0. On the play, the first baseman, Eli Lewis mistakenly thought the putout was the third out of the inning, and rolled the ball toward the mound and started into the dugout.
Childress kept running and made it into third. Bear catcher Hunter McKee had fielded the ball, and in an attempt to get Childress at third, threw the ball away, allowing Childress to score and make it 5-0.
Back-to-back singles by Bullock and Simon put two runners on, and when Smith was called for a balk, the runners advanced to second and third.
Napier then hit a ball to short, which was booted by Landon Cardwell, allowing Bullock to score to make it 6-0. Smith followed by ripping a pitch into the left-field corner, driving in a pair of runs to make it 8-0. Hawkins singled to center to drive in Smith with the ninth run.
Butler County coach Kevin Butler then replaced Smith on the mound with Eli Lewis, who got Haycraft to ground out to end the inning.
Lewis then cruised through the Grayson County lineup and turned out to be the winning pitcher when the Bears rallied in the seventh.
The season is not over for the Cougars. It remains to be seen who they will face in next week’s 3rd Region Tournament, which will be held at Daviess County.
By Don Brown, Local Sports
Reach Don at firstname.lastname@example.org