Even as the two-time reigning champ, the deck was stacked against Campbell County on Thursday night in the 10th Region baseball championship.
Bus rides from Claryville to Cynthiana down Route 27 past midnight on consecutive nights, down a few pitchers due to pitch count rules and taking on a team they’ve knocked out in the last three region tournaments, the Camels needed an exceptional effort to three-peat.
Harrison County got some payback with a resounding 11-1 run-rule victory in six innings. It’s their first regional title since 2013.
Region titles are the expectation for the two programs, the Thorobreds winning their 22nd all-time while the Camels were playing in their fifth region title game in a row and their ninth 10th Region championship game overall.
“This was not our first time being put in a corner and the draw not working in our favor. We’ve ran the gauntlet more than once and we kind of got the gauntlet again this time. I don’t know that I’d want it any other way,” Camels coach Scott Schweitzer said.
A six-run fourth inning started the avalanche for the Thorobreds. Leading 1-0, Harrison County sent 12 batters to the plate, scoring six runs on seven hits to break the game open. They had a string of five straight one-out hits that scored four runs. Harrison came in averaging a region high 8.3 runs per game and showed their potency throughout the lineup.
“Very smart kids, they know the gameplan,” Thorobreds coach Mac Whitaker said. “You can see all of our lineup everybody does it from top to bottom. It’s not just three or four guys and that’s what makes a difference in our team. We don’t have an easy out in the lineup.”
Whitaker is KHSAA’s all-time winningest coach with 1,220 career victories and will make a trip back after a 10-year hiatus.
“It feels like an eternity, it really did,” Whitaker said.
The 7-0 lead shellshocked the Camels, needing three pitchers to get out of the fourth. They were able to get a run on the board in the fifth on a Jake Gross RBI single, but the Thorobreds added three more in the bottom half of the inning, Corey Vaughn’s two-run homerun making it 10-1.
The game ended early in the bottom of the sixth when Malachi Feeback struck out, but his swinging third strike got past the catcher and Feeback advanced to second on an errant throw to first. He later stole third, another throwing error getting him to home plate for the game ending run.
JD Kendall held the Camels at bay on the mound, allowing five hits an an earned run in the six innings of work, striking out six and walking two.
Thursday’s bus ride will be a little longer for the Camels than the prior two nights when they went home with victories.
“I think my kids they’ve learned to eat at the gas station. At the Speedway in Cynthiana the gas station tenant made pizza and hot dogs and everything for the kids,” Schweitzer said. “This is the time of the year you live for. The bus rides are where the memories are made. They’ll remember losing 11-1 to a good Harrison County team, but the bus rides, the karaoke, the fun is the stuff they’ll remember.”
The loss ends a run for nine seniors that will go down in program history. Without a freshman season due to COVID, they won 78 games in three years, the second most in program history in a three-year span. The 29 wins this season tied for the second most in Camel history. On top of that, they made three straight region championship games, won two regional titles and won a state tournament game.
“Five straight regional finals. Some of these kids in the dugout don’t know any different and that’s incredible. That’s not a coach, that’s not a program, that’s a whole group of athletes that make that happen,” Schweitzer said.
Camels seniors Aydan Hamilton, Jake Gross and Evan Clark were named to the All-Tournament team.
Now they’ll be looking at the “r” word and it’s not rebuilding, rather reloading with a strong core throughout the program.
“We’re okay. We’ve got some grown men playing JV baseball waiting their turn. It’s hard to get them on the field when you’ve got four seniors in the infield and some in the outfield. We’d like to make it six straight next year. Next year it’s at the 40th District, look forward to making some more two-hour bus rides and gas station stops at midnight and putting it together again,” Schweitzer said.
Harrison County will face Pikeville on June 2 in the first round of the state tournament at 5 p.m.
“Never gets old, no matter what. We’ll fill that place, we bring a lot of fans with us and it will be a good time. Hopefully we go there and play well and win one more,” Whitaker said.
CAMPBELL COUNTY — 000-010-x — 1-5-4
HARRISON COUNTY — 001-631-x — 11-11-3
2B — (CC) Franzen, C. Clark (HC) Harris, McIlvain
HR — (HC) Vaughn
WP — Kendall. LP — Kramer.
Records: Campbell County 29-10, Harrison County 31-8