After the Whitewater Wildcats were swept by Starr’s Mill two weeks ago on the baseball diamond, it was Head Coach Rusty Bennett’s job to steady the ship and instill some confidence into his team. Whitewater could only manufacture one unearned run against the deep Starr’s Mill pitching staff and faced the prospect of three more quality starting pitchers from the Fayette County Tigers in a must have series for the Wildcats to stay close in the Region 3-AAAAA race. After winning game one at the Tigers home stadium on Tuesday 7-1, the series moved to Whitewater for a Friday night doubleheader. Fayette County got good starting pitching in both games, but the Wildcats came away with the series sweep by winning the first game 3-1 and the nightcap 6-0.
Ahmad Ali got the start for the Tigers in game one. He did a masterful job of keeping the Wildcats off balance as he struck out eight in the first four innings. He mixed his pitches well and kept the mistakes to a minimum. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Thomas McKenzie lead off the game with a solid triple and scored on a Landon Busby sacrifice fly to go up 1-0 early and could somewhat relax at the plate. Busby started game one for the Wildcats and was dominant from the start, it seemed if the one run might be enough.
The Wildcats broke out for two more in the fourth when Reid Kasten, Justin Burdette and Maddox Mueller each had doubles that plated two more runs for a 3-0 lead. Ali was able to strike out the final two batters in the inning to keep the Tigers within striking distance. Those runs proved key when Fayette County rallied in the seventh. Dylan Goodman came in to close for Busby, who gave up only two hits over six innings, and was greeted by a Jeremai Joseph single and a walk to Kylin Stonewall which brought the tying run to the plate. Goodman got the first out but Jevious Reynolds hit a single to right to score Joseph but a perfect relay throw from Jacob Hawkins to freshman catcher Chris Buchanan who cut down Stonewall at second was a game changer. Instead of facing two in scoring position and the tying run at second with one out, Goodman now only had runner on third and two outs and got the last out on an infield out to win game one 3-1.
Game two featured an equally impressive duo of starting pitchers in Joseph and Kasten as the Tigers tried to salvage the third game of the series. Joseph was perfect through the first four innings for the Tigers, he was outdoing Ali’s performance from earlier. Wildcat Kasten lead off the bottom of the fifth with a no-doubt homerun to left center, he had just missed one in game one at the same spot, to go up 1-0. They would add another run in the fifth off a TJ Berry single and four in the sixth when the Wildcat bats exploded for the evening in route to the 6-0 final.
The story of game two was Kasten, he pitched a complete game two-hitter and added a homer and a double from his cleanup spot. He finished the night going four-for-six with three extra base hits.
The series sweep improved the spirits of Bennett and the Wildcats. He commented after game two, “I thought we played well, we faced two good arms, we have seen a lot of good pitching the last two weeks. Those guys are going to win some ballgames for Fayette County, they can really pitch. For us, Busby pitches a heck of a game and then Kasten throws a shutout, he played phenomenal. “
With a lot of ball still left to be played, the win combined with Starr’s Mill’s victory over McIntosh gives the Wildcats the inside track to the second spot in the region and a home playoff series. But Griffin is on the horizon and they are a team the Wildcats cannot take lightly. For the Tigers, they still have a lot of region play left, but if they get pitching like they did in this series, look for them to battle for the fourth spot which could potentially mean four teams from Fayette County representing Region 3-AAAAA in the state playoffs.