The bitter end for Scott County baseball took only 35 minutes Monday afternoon, or less time than the return trip to Madison Central's Don Richardson Field.
Central manufactured a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, and it held up for a 1-0 victory in the 11th Region quarterfinals, ending SC's season and its bid for a third title in four years.
Trent Fox had three of the five hits for Scott County (23-11) in his final high school game, including a two-out single to keep the Cards afloat in the top of the seventh.
Indians' left-hander Lucas Myers bounced back and retired another of SC's six seniors, Kyle Harbison, on a roller to first base for the final out.
"Games like this always seem to come down to who can get that hit with two outs," SC coach Scott Willard. "No matter what, we just couldn't seem to come up with that two-out hit, but I can tell you it wasn't for lack of effort."
Madison Central (27-9), which defeated Scott County in last year's region championship and also shut out the Cards earlier this month, fell to Tates Creek in Tuesday's semifinals at SC's Sutton Field. Tates Creek and Lafayette met Wednesday for the title.
The game was suspended Sunday due to lightning, heavy rain and ultimately a tornado warning with no score in the top of the fourth.
It remained a pitchers' duel with Myers and Cade McKee taking over for aces Bryce Travis of Madison Central and Jordan Fox of Scott County.
Having thrown well over the 25-pitch ceiling (although Fox was only at 42), neither starter was eligible to pitch Monday due to rest requirements.
"It's a shame that Jordan couldn't come back and finish, but those are the KHSAA rules," Willard said. "Cade pitched just fine. He did great."
Small-ball tactics prevailed after Travis led off the Indians' fifth with a single to right field.
Tyler Storie advanced Travis to second base with a sacrifice bunt.
Travis moved up another station when McKee lured Carter Ruffner into a ground ball to Philip Garner at second. That flipped the lineup to lead-off hitter Scott Simmons, who watched two pitches out of the strike zone before smashing a line drive that eluded Trent Fox at shortstop.
“On Sunday, when Seth (Benner) hit a ball that (Ruffner) went up and got in center field, if that gets over his head and we score a couple runs, then maybe it's a different game," Willard said.
Madison Central continued the threat when Brandon Anderson beat out another infield single, but Fox flagged down a grounder from Ben Snapp to shut it down.
Anderson and Simmons each had two of Madison Central's six hits.
Myers needed only 11 pitches to get through the Scott County sixth. He caught Sam Daniel looking for strike three, got Garner on a fly ball, and bounced back from a 3-0 count to coax a chopper from Beniam Bond.
Remarkably, Madison Central hitters didn't record a strikeout or a walk in either half of the weather-beaten battle. McKee served up a mere seven pitches in a 1-2-3 sixth.
Benner flew out and Garner went down swinging prior to Fox's final hurrah.
Myers struck out two and walked one after Travis labored through the opening segment with four of each.
The sixth inning was the only frame in which Scott County didn't leave at least one runner on base.
Rankin was at the plate with a count of two balls and one strike, and Bond at first, when the game stopped on its scheduled day.
He beat out a bunt single to get the Cards out on the right foot, but the Indians then picked off Bond to keep the board at all zeroes.
"That was a beautiful drag bunt by him, but then we got a little too aggressive," Willard said. "We had a double play later on, so there were two plays like that after we came back."
Colton Perkins led off Central's fourth with a single to center.
Two stellar plays by all-region catcher Harbison washed that away. First, he pounced on a bunt by Brandon Adams, zipped a throw to Garner and cut down the lead runner. The inning later ended when Harbison fired to Fox and caught Adams attempting to steal.
Fox singled to fuel the fifth. Harbison's successful sacrifice and a four-pitch walk to Willhoite set the table once again.
Myers squirmed away unscathed when the Indians turned McKee's liner to short into a double play, catching Fox at second.
"We had our chances to win the game," Willard said. "It could have easily gone the other way."
Scott County's six seniors — Willhoite, Harbison, Rankin, Brett Blair and the Fox twins — left an enduring legacy with the program.
The Cardinals chalked up 114 wins during their career, including the first two regional titles in school history. They nearly ran the table with three championships and an overall 36-1 record in the 42nd District.
Willhoite (Louisville), Jordan Fox (Eastern Kentucky) and Harbison (Indiana State) each are signed to with a major college.
"They certainly will go down in history. There are not many programs who have three guys in one class sign to play Division I baseball, so kudos to them for their hard work," Willard said. "It's on them that we were able to accomplish so much thee past few years. I'm not big-headed enough to think that it was all about the coaching."
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.