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16th Region baseball final — Raid to order: East Carter rules region for first time since 2009

RUSSELL It took six innings for one team to break through during the 16th Region Tournament championship.

It took two more to break the other team’s heart.

East Carter’s Andrew Tomolonis and Boyd County’s Peyton Jackson were not in a giving mood on Wednesday night at Russell High School. Due to the pitcher’s duel, the bases were largely unoccupied for five frames.

Tomolonis decided to help his own cause with an opposite-field two-RBI single to garner the game’s first runs. The productive inning guided the Raiders to a 6-0 win over Boyd County.

“I’m through the roof right now,” senior Jaxon Barker said. “We did something that past seniors could never do. We worked for this every single day at practice, lifting and throwing. We deserve this wholeheartedly because we worked so hard for it.”

East Carter earned its first region title since 2009 and the third in program history. Coach Jeremiah Shearer has the Raider blue and red running through his veins. As a former player and assistant coach under the legendary J.P Kouns, Shearer becomes the only East Carter coach to take his program to the state tournament twice.

“I thought about a lot today,” Shearer said after the win. “I thought a lot about coach Kouns and the teams that he coached. I have a lot of players who have fathers on the 1984 (state championship) team. ... To have it be 40 years ago this week, it’s really special to us to follow in those footsteps.”

“That’s the one thing about our community,” he added. “If you are winning, it doesn’t matter whether it’s chess or whatever. People are going to come and support you. I can say enough about this community. They have supported us all year long. It’s a big thank you to them.”

It’s not exactly a Raiders revival. East Carter has been knocking at the door the last few years, including a trip to the region final last year. The Raiders improved to 22-6 and will meet the Ninth Region champion at Legions Field in Lexington on June 7 to open the state tournament.

Shearer said the goal was reimagined after walking off the field at Morgan County last May to get back and have another opportunity at a region crown.

“During the seniors’ freshman year, we got to the semifinals,” Shearer said, “and lost a heartbreaker. Sophomore year, same thing. Last year, we got to the finals but can’t get over the hump. They went to work from that day on. The seniors have led us all year long. They have gotten together every day this week to have breakfast and hit. They are a close-knit group.”

Barker said he gladly accepts the role as the energy and motivator of the group. After every big play, he asks everyone, on and off the field, to raise their level.

“It’s really one of the most important jobs I have on the team,” Barker said. “I get the team hyped up and that’s how we win ball games. It’s how we hit and I thought we played well in the field. It’s just energy throughout the whole game.”

Tate Scott opened the East Carter sixth inning with a walk. Brother Ty Scott made unsuccessful bunt attempts before lining a double down the third base line to move Tate to third.

Tomolonis went to right field and sliced a base hit to give the team a 2-0 lead.

Boyd County tried to find ways to dent the scoreboard against Tomolonis. The Lions had two runners on base in the first and the third inning but couldn’t push one across.

Boyd County attempted to answer in the home half of the sixth. Brogan Jones advanced to second on a single and a fielding error. Unfortunately, a pitch in the dirt gave an opening for the pinch runner to attempt a steal but he was caught in a rundown, ending the threat.

“He pitched against what we thought he was going to do,” Boyd County coach Frank Conley said of Tomolonis. “We thought he would use fastballs to get ahead. He just curve-balled us to death. He threw it when he wanted to throw it. He didn’t give us many opportunities to do much.”

“I am definitely proud of (my team),” he added. “I am more proud of the people that they are than the players they are. They are a good, quality bunch of kids.”

Tomolonis sealed the deal in the seventh inning. He gave up a single and a walk in the frame but Barker threw out a runner who tried to steal third.

Tomolonis threw 49 pitches against Ashland in the opening round on Monday, which allowed him to return on one day’s rest and start against the Lions.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Tomolonis said, “but I also knew that we could do it.

“I knew that Boyd County had good hitters. I also knew that my breaking ball would be a deciding factor (in this game).”

Tomolonis scattered seven Lion hits in his complete-game effort. He struck out five.

“He showed some guts,” Shearer said. “He came back on one day’s rest and through a complete game. It says a lot about the type of senior that he is and the player that he is. We were definitely monitoring his pitch count. We wanted Andrew on the mound today.”

Cody Salmons opened the seventh stanza with a double and Levi Hutchinson followed with a single. Tate Scott’s sacrifice fly brought a run home before Blake Hall’s home run over the center field wall supplied three more to the total.

Tomolonis added a 3-for-4 night at the plate to his pitching performance.

JK McKnight went 3 for 4, including a double for Boyd County (32-3). Peyton Jackson delivered another strong pitching performance. He only allowed two hits through the first five innings. He struck out six.

“He gave me everything he’s got, just like always,” Conley said. “He pitched his heart out. He just was a little gassed there at the end.”

E. CARTER 000 002 4 — 6 8 1

BOYD CO. 000 000 X — 0 7 1

Tomolonis and Barker; Jackson, Butler (6), Martin (7), Biggs (7) and Gray. W—Tomolonis. L—Jackson. 2B—Ty Scott (EC), Salmons (EC), McKnight (BC). HR—Hall (EC).

All-Tournament Team

Ty Logan (Greenup County)

Dylan Doyle (Fleming County)

Jake Carter (West Carter)

Parker Fannin (Raceland)

Parker Ison (Raceland)

Brady Marushi (Ashland)

Jk McKnight (Boyd County)

Ryan Brown (Boyd County)

Alex Martin (Boyd County)

Colby Wilburn (Rowan County)

Hayden Mains (Rowan County)

Jaxon Barker (East Carter)

Gavin Sexton (East Carter)

Blake Hall (East Carter)

Andrew Tomolonis (East Carter) (MVP)