LEXINGTON — Scott County senior Zane Patton was on the mound for all four 42nd District wins plus a grudge match against Great Crossing this season.
Staked to a two-run lead with nine outs to go Sunday, a playoff semifinal viciory at Sayre to complete the set and send the Cardinals to their fifth consecutive 11th Region tournament seemed almost inevitable.
But after the shutout went away in the fifth inning, Sayre’s scintillating six-run, seven-hit sixth fully spoiled the storybook ending and made the host Spartans 7-2 winners at Chase Comley Field.
“There’s nobody I would have wanted to have the ball out there other than Zane,” SC coach Scott Willard said. “I don’t know how many hits they had, but they had a bunch. The bottom of their order really hit well. Balls were just out of our reach. They got the timely stuff done when they needed it.”
Sayre (15-11) piled up 15 hits to Scott County’s three, totals that don’t adequately reflect the Cardinals’ missed opportunities.
Campton Martin was left stranded at third base after a leadoff double in the second. Two stalled in scoring position after Paul Garner and Ethan Miracle’s two-out walks in the third.
And despite Jaxon Saylor’s daring drag bunt for an RBI single and the 2-0 lead in the fifth, Sayre ace Raymond Saatman squirmed away with the bases loaded.
Saatman finished with nine strikeouts and retired the final seven Cards in succession.
“We played a pretty clean baseball game. We didn’t kick it around,” Willard said. “The thing most people have to realize is that kid’s pretty good out there. His slider’s really good.”
Senior shortstop Chase Grigsby scored both runs for SC. Patton struck out seven and didn’t issue a walk over his 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Joseph Garrison.
Saatman went 3-for-4 with two RBI, including a triple to the right field corner in the fateful sixth. Charlie Slabaugh, Grady Johnson, Addison Stockham, Charlie Scoggin and Brock Coffman each supplied a pair of Spartan hits.
Singles by eight and nine hitters Scoggins and Coffman, followed by Johnson’s hit with two out, put Sayre in the board in the fifth.
Stockham doubled down the right field line to start the winning rally. Josh Richards’ single set the stage for Scoggins’ tying line drive to left with one out.
Coffman and Slabaugh followed with RBI singles before Saatman’s shot chased Patton and made it 6-2. Johnson delivered the final run.
Prior to that, SC dictated the pace: Patient at the plate, aggressive on the base paths.
“We were able to do what we wanted to do, steal some bases. I told them you’re never going to win a big game sitting on your hands,” Willard said. “If we get thrown out, we get thrown out, but you’ve got to try to steal bases and do stuff like that. Most of the stuff worked out for us.”
Patton’s leadoff walk, a fielder’s choice off the bat of Grigsby and a Paul Garner single put Grigsby in position to score from second on a pair of passed balls in the top of the first.
Grigsby snagged a line drive to start an inning-ending double play in Sayre’s half of the opening frame.
Willard second-guessed himself after taking off the squeeze bunt sign when Aiden Lopez picked up his second strike with one out and Martin standing on third base in the second.
The coach got his chance to atone after Grigsby was hit by a pitch and Garner and Ethan Miracle walked, all with two out, to bring up the Cards’ best bunter, Saylor, in the fifth.
“Jaxon dropped a drag, and boom, we scored and went up 2-0,” he said.
Scott County fans were starting to make Monday afternoon championship round plans in the back of their minds.
Instead, it was Sayre — the last team to send SC home before regions in 2015 — playing spoiler once again.
“In athletics there’s a finality to almost everything that goes on.” Willard said. “Only one team is going to be happy and win a state championship. I do wish we could have qualified for the region.”
Willard expects at least one of his three seniors to follow through with the recently approved “supplemental year.”
Combine that with all the returning underclass talent, and this season should be little more than a speed bump for SC (12-19).
“We started a freshman (Luke Valencia) at third, a freshman (Jay Wllson) behind the plate, and hopefully they’ll just continue to get better,” Willard said.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.