May 24, 2019 – JJ Baker – Bluegrass Sports Nation Baseball Columnist
The 14th Regional Tournament is comprised of 8 teams, a district winner and district runner up, from the 53rd, 54th, 55th, and 56th Districts. It will be played on May 25th and 27th, with the championship game being on the 28th. The 53rd District winner and runner-up were Knott County and Letcher County Central. Knott was able to win 12-2 in 6 innings in the District Finals. The 54th District winner and runner-up were Hazard and Perry County Central. Hazard pulled away late in the finals of that district and won 9-6. In the 55th District, Breathitt and Jackson City squared off and the Bobcats were able to get the 17-2 victory in 3 innings. The 56th District came down between Powell and Estill, with Powell winning 5-0. With the field set, coaches drew on Thursday the May 23rd to see who would be matched up in the regional bracket. Below are the results and schedule (All games are being held at Letcher County Central):
Knott Central v. Estill County – 11:00 am
Hazard v. Jackson City – 1:30 pm
Powell County v. Letcher Central – 4:00 PM
Breathitt County v. Perry Central – 6:00 PM
The first game of the tournament will match the 53rd District Champ, the Knott County Central Patriots, against the 56th District Runners-up the Estill County Engineers. Knott Central comes into the tournament sitting at 19-12. The Patriots seem to be on an upswing at the right time of the year. They have won 4 of their last 5 games and have put up an incredible 56 runs in that span. With that being said, there are two district runner-ups in the tournament field that no one wanted to draw first round and Estill County was one. Estill comes in with a similar record at 19-14. The two teams played head to head one time this year with Knott winning 9-6 all the way back on March 30th. This could be the best 1st round game of the tournament. You could possibly see two of the best sophomores duel it out on the mound in this contest if coaches call on Kent Damron and Rocky Hix. Both teams will hit the ball well so it may come down to who can make the least amount of errors.
The second game of the opening round will feature the the 3 time defending 14th Regional Champions and current 54th District Champions the Hazard Bulldogs facing the 55th District Runners-up the Jackson City Tigers. The Bulldogs come in with an impressive 25-7 record on the year. Jackson City comes in to the game at 5-12 on the season. The Tigers were able to outlast Wolfe County in the opening round of the 55th to earn a seat at the table in the Regional tournament behind the arm of Colton Smith who recorded 5 2/3 innings and added a triple on offense. The Bulldogs bring something to the tournament that no one else in the tournament has as much of and that is experience. There are two 6-year varsity players, 5th year varsity starters, and 4 time 14th Regional Champions in Bailey Blair and Andy Baker on the team. To go alongside Blair and Baker, the Bulldogs also have, arguably, the best catcher in the region with Dalton Baker who has caught in all three of the most recent regional championships and is lighting it up at the plate this season. Even more of that experience can be found in center field and 1st base with Kyle Johnson (who was the lead-off man on last years final four team) and Junior standout Trajon Campbell (who is leading the Bulldogs in BA with an incredible .388 on the season). On paper the Bulldogs look really good, but if you don’t come to play everyday in the tournament, your season can end quickly.
The 3rd game of the day will be another great match up. The 56th District Champs, the Powell County Pirates, will take on tournament host Letcher Central Cougars. Powell County won it’s first District title since 2015 and will be cruising behind the arm and play of 14th Region Player of the Year, Nate Skidmore. Skidmore, who will be playing football in the fall at EKU, has dominated the region this year going 7-2 from the mound and batting an incredible .405. Powell has four other seniors to compliment the lineup that includes John Brooks (another good arm in the pitching rotation) and catcher Daniel Poe behind the plate. The Letcher Central Cougars bring a 14-17 record to the tournament. The Cougars have been up and down this year, but they are a scary team when you look at some of their wins. They knocked off Perry Central 12-6, Hazard 12-2, and played a very good Paintsville team to a 10-9 loss and also defeated the Pirates earlier in the season 3-2. Pitcher Sam Little also recorded a perfect game in the opening round of the 53rd District tournament against the Cordia Lions. This could turn into a showdown as well.
The night cap will feature the Breathitt County Bobcats and the Perry Central Commodores. This will be the 3rd meeting of the two this year with Perry winning all three previous games (12-2, 7-0, and 5-2). Perry, who has consistently found their way to region finals, is the scariest district runner-up in the field and could run the table. The Commodores seem to always step it up during region play and this year doesn’t seem like it will be any different. The Commodores will be led by the senior duo of Ryan Couch and Trevor Spurlock. Couch, who made the East/West Senior All-star team, has had an impressive senior outing going 9-3 from the mound with a 0.89 ERA all while batting .330 and stealing 29 bases. Spurlock has also made his presence known on the base paths scoring 32 runs on the season and stealing 36 bases. Breathitt has been my sleeper all season. They are capable of pulling the big upset on any given night. The Bobcats finished the season with an incredible 20 wins. There biggest wins have came against Knott Central, North Laurel, and South Laurel. The Bobcats will be led by Seniors Grant Hamilton (Alice Lloyd signee), Nick Correll, Tyson Gross, John Hall, JT O’Hair, and Cameron Stacy. Breathitt has been led in hits this year by Layne Weddle with 42, followed by Cameron Stacy with 37 and Andrew Combs with 36. JT O’Hair (.358) and Nick Correll (.357) have added a spark at the plate while Tyson Gross has added 14 runs. Breathitt can hit, and hit well, so the pitching match-up will be crucial for the Commodores.
As we’ve said many times, this will be one of the most exciting 14th Regional Tournaments in a few years. Stay tuned to Bluegrass Sports Nation throughout the week to get updates and coverage on the entire tournament.
Something new this year is the naming of the 14th Region All Region Team by the 14th Region Coaches. Below is a list of our players that have been named to the team.
All 14th Region Team:
OF- Luke Jacobs, Knott County, OF- Kyle Johnson, Hazard, OF- Wyatt Clark, Powell County, OF- Trajon Campbell, Hazard, 1B- Cameron Stacy, Breathitt, 2B- Bailey Blair, Hazard, SS- Trevor Spurlock, Perry Central, 3B- Caleb Justice, Knott County, C – Dalton Baker, Hazard; UTL- Micah Adams, Estill County; UTL- Kason Hofsess, Knott County; UTL- David Elkins, Perry Central; P – Ryan Couch, Perry Central; P – Kent Damron, Knott County; P – Nate Skidmore, Powell; P – Andy Baker, Hazard
14th Region Player of the Year: Nate Skidmore
Thanks to our sponsors for the 14th Region Baseball Tournament 1st Trust Bank of Hazard and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH)!