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From The Mean Streets Of Mound City | KHSAA

I Got Him A Good One, Didn’t I Coach?

The movie Hoosiers is considered an American classic for a number of reasons – great performances by Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, the film’s timeless underdog story being based on real-life events (sorta), and a striking portrayal of small-town Midwestern gyms in the 1950s.

But another less-talked-about appeal of Hoosiers is that Hickory High wins an undisputed State Championship. Not 1 of 5, 6, or 7 “championships” across enrollment classes. Coach Norman Dale’s tiny squad becomes the best high school basketball team in Indiana, period.

The modern “class” or “division” system is nearly ubiquitous across 50 states, designed to give every school a fighting chance. It works pretty well, especially on the gridiron, where pitting an urban powerhouse against Horse & Saddle Prep can result in a dangerous physical beating.

But the system has its negatives too. A clever school district can take unwholesome advantage, by minimizing its enrollment totals while welcoming freshmen who – wink, nudge – just happen to be 6+ feet tall and athletically gifted.

No such tomfoolery in Kentucky baseball, which holds its playoffs the old-fashioned way. The OLD old-fashioned way. KHSAA places every school, regardless of size, in 1 of 64 Districts. The winners of the District tournaments (which begin this upcoming Monday) play in Region tournaments. Region winners play in the State tournament. The victor of that tournament wins the State ChampionshipTHE State Championship.

Refreshing, no doubt. But Jimmy Chitwoods (and Norman Dales) are just as rare on the diamond as everywhere else. That means very small schools cannot truly hope to win the whole thing, and must set their goals accordingly. Which is okay – a local championship can feel like a World Series triumph for a modest student body, while for others a Region romp is merely a stepping stone toward an ultimate goal of winning the KSHAA title.

Let’s take a look at a few Western KY playoff hopefuls in 2 categories – big-shots who can realistically take a kick at the State Championship can, and smaller schools who hope to make noise in their District and Region brackets.

An honest ranking of the top 3 contenders from the Paducah area: 1) McCracken County, 2) McCracken County, and 3) McCracken County. The Mustangs are ranked #1 in Kentucky by MaxPreps, are 24-5 against a slap-leather schedule, and on Monday blanked highly-touted Lafayette High 1-0 with starting ace Luke Seed striking out 11 batters.

McCracken’s team website includes a photo of 2nd baseman Daniel Myatt – who recently hit 2 home runs in a game against Hopkinsville – and 7 other seniors in neon relief against a stormy forest sky, brandishing wooden bats and hatchets. It looks legitimately scary, as does McCracken’s roster to upcoming Region foes.

The only bad news for the Mustangs? Paducah Tilghman will meet them in the 2nd District tournament, and although the Blue Tornado has lost to McCracken twice, anything can happen in an elimination bracket.

Tilghman began the season with an incredible run of pitching and defense, which has tapered off slightly as the club began to show its youth in April and May. It would be unrealistic to predict a State tournament run, but the Blue & White will hope to play District spoiler against their more experienced local rivals.

The Franklin-Simpson Wildcats are another bona-fide contender, leading all Region 4 teams with a 25-4 overall record. The ‘Cats are undefeated in 7 tournament games (5-0 vs. national competition) and generate timely offense in big games. Versatile junior Clay Spears has been an RBI machine at times, knocking in both runs in a crucial 2-1 win over Bowling Green on Tuesday.

Logan County is one of the few teams to knock off the Wildcats this season, and the 2 teams could be headed for a Region 4 playoff showdown. But the Cougars have looked wildly inconsistent in May. Against South Warren High on Tuesday, senior hurler D.J. Beard threw 90 pitches and stayed out of trouble for the most part. His teammates, however, only managed 3 hits and committed 3 errors in a 3-2 loss.

Finally, the Carlisle County Comets are a promising little club that suffered a protracted slump in late April and May, beating only Bradford High School (TN) during a miserable 6-game stretch. The Maroon & Gold have an excellent chance to reach the Region 1 tournament, though, having gone a combined 6-0 against their upcoming 1st District opponents. If sophomore standout Ian Fry’s bat heats up again in late May and the squad’s up-and-down pitching staff can hold it together, the Comets could leave a trail well into the KSHAA playoffs.

 

by Mickey Mounds

Contributor, covering Missouri’s Bootheel and St Louis

 

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