Bulldogs look to 4-Peat
WHITESBURG, KY – May 28, 2019 – J.J. BAKER – Bluegrass Sports Nation Baseball Columnist
Very few teams have had the success that the Hazard Bulldogs have seen over the past 5 years. The Bulldogs are the owners of 4, 14th Regional Championships in 5 years. Their 2018 season saw the Bulldogs make it all the way to the Final Four where they were eventually taken down by the St. Xavier Tigers. With fireballer Devin Morris and power hitter Bryson Parks lost to graduation, the question on everyone’s mind entering the 2019 season was, “what does Hazard still have in the tank?” That question has been answered as the Bulldogs will play in their 4th consecutive regional final game tonight.
The Bulldogs have been able to patch together a very respectable 27-7 record on the season to date. All this has been done on the shoulders of what has made Hazard a 14th Region Contender again; experience. The Bulldogs are led by four senior captains (Dalton Baker, Andy Baker, Bailey Blair, and Kyle Johnson) that have won 83 games and 3 regions in the past 3 seasons. In addition to that senior leadership, junior Trajon Campbell and sophomores Jarrett Napier and Garrett Miller have stepped up and found a place at the table as well. To compliment the upper classmen, Hazard has some rising stars in a couple of freshman and eighth graders that have shown flashes of taking over the reigns next year. The one thing standing in the way of the Bulldogs 4th straight regional appearance was a semi-final matchup with the Estill County Engineers.
Estill County made their way to the semi-final round by taking down the Knott County Central Patriots in the quarterfinal round 2-0, in what some saw as a mild upset. This game saw two of the best sophomores in the 14th Region duel it out on the mound. Rocky Hix got the call for the Engineers. The Bulldogs started fast against the sophomore plating 3 runs in the first half-inning of the game. Andy Baker singled to start the game and scored on the next batter when Kyle Johnson drove triple to the left center gap to make it 1-0. The next batter, Trajon Campbell, then drove a double to the right center fence that allowed Johnson to score easily making it 2-0. After a fly-out and a ground out (Campbell moved to third) the Bulldogs were able to put one more run on the board when a wild pitch allowed Campbell to cross the plate to make the score after the top of 1, 3-0.
The Engineers got something of their own going in the bottom half of the first as Napier hit Micah Adams. Isaac Napier then got an infield single. Jarrett Napier was able to get a ground ball that his defense turned into a double play to record the first two outs of the inning. With a runner on third, Napier was able to get another grounder out of the Engineers to end the inning with the lead still sitting at 3-0.
Both Hazard and Estill were retired in order in the second inning. In the top of the third, the Bulldogs again started fast with the top of their line-up. After working the count back to full, after falling down 0-2, Andy Baker took the full count offering over the left field fence for a solo home run making it 4-0. After a great play on a hard line drive from Kyle Johnson by Micah Adams, Trajon Campbell again came up big and drove a ball to the right center gap that gave him his second double on the day. Campbell would then score on a Dalton Baker single. Dalton Baker would then score on the next batter when Bailey Blair hit a line drive down the third base line to set the final score of the half inning at 6-0. Both offenses were then quiet until the top of the 5th.
The Bulldogs started the 5th inning off with a Sawyer Patrick hit back up the middle. Dalton Baker was then able to get yet another hit on the day to have men on 1st and 2nd with 0 outs. The Engineers were able to get out of a jam by getting the Bulldogs hung up on the the base paths after pop up allowed them to be doubled up. Napier was able to help his cause as he hit a single past the second baseman to score Dalton Baker and make the score 7-0.
Hazard was then able to add 3 more in the top of the 6th. The inning started with a Garrett Miller single, a Max Johnson sac bunt, then walks to Andy Baker and Johnson that loaded the bases. With the infield up, Sawyer Patrick came up with one of the biggest hits of his young career with a hard grounder back up the middle that scored Miller and Baker to make it 9-0. Dalton Baker added one more for good measure with a hard grounder that scored K. Johnson to make it 10-0 going into the bottom of the 6th. The Engineers weren’t done though.
Estill County started the bottom of the 6th with an Kamden Powell single, followed up by Dean Tucker single to center. Justin Risen was able to plate Powell and Puckett with a line drive to left field. Napier was able to work out of the inning and stop the Engineer charge at only 2 runs. The Engineers were able to scratch 1 more run out in the final inning when Micah Adams was able to score Estill County’s final run of the game.
The Engineers finish the season with a 20-15 record and will return a stable of starters next year. The Engineers will also be the 14th Regional Tournament host. This could put all the chips in the Engineers corner going into the 2020 season. As for now, the Bulldogs will advance and face a red hot Breathitt County team in the finals tonight at 7:00 in Whitesburg!
Bluegrass Sports Nation coverage of the 14th Region Tournament brought to you by Appalchian Regional Healthcare, 1st Trust Bank of Hazard, First National Bank of Jackson, Lakeside Homes of Jackson, Dream Homes of Hazard, Baker’s Auto Parts in Jackson, Variety Pizza, and Wolfe County Farm Bureau!