West Jessamine baseball claimed another district title with an 8-1 win over Mercer County on Tuesday night.
Colt pitcher Josh Carroll took the mound for the first time Tuesday night with a four-run lead, but he also took with him the memory of what happened the last time he faced Mercer County — a 7-3 loss May 2.
This time would not be like the last time, however. This time Carroll was in control, and he would not let the lead his teammates gave him slip away.
The West Jessamine left-hander fiercely protected that lead Tuesday night, keeping Mercer County at bay for most of the game and helping the Colts capture the 46th District tournament championship with an 8-1 victory at Amos Black Field.
Carroll allowed one run on three hits over five and two-thirds innings, faring far better in a far more important game than when Mercer roughed him up earlier in the season.
“It feels so great. I can’t even describe how happy I am right now,” Carroll said. “I just came out and focused on getting strikes and letting my defense do the work.”
West Jessamine did some work on offense, too. The Colts scored four times in the first inning and twice more in the second, using seven hits, two walks, two hit batsmen and two Mercer errors to take a 6-0 lead.
Still, Carroll wasn’t sure that was enough. Mercer had scored four runs in one-third of an inning against him before, so he said he wasn’t breathing easy even with such a big lead.
“I was worried that I was going to come out and blow it, particularly at first. But I just got in the zone, and I was so focused and I started making pitches and kept making pitches and my teammates backed me up,” he said.
That allowed No. 9 West Jessamine to take its turn at holding the district championship. West Jessamine and Mercer have played in the 46th District finals for six straight years. The Colts have won four of those titles, with the teams alternating as champions for the last five years.
“We kind of trade off, it seems like, every year,” West Jessamine coach Jody Hamilton said. “Hopefully we can both represent our district well next week.”
West Jessamine and Mercer will both advance to the 12th Region tournament, which begins Monday at Danville. The Colts (31-5) will be looking to win their third regional title in five years.
“It’s going to be a good wide-open region; I really believe that. It seems like everybody has that one guy that can go out there and shut down a team,” Hamilton said.
The Colts and Carroll were in shut-down mode Tuesday. Carroll threw only 14 pitches in the first two innings and 74 to the 25 batters he faced.
“I thought Josh came out (like) the senior he was,” Hamilton said. “He’s had a lot of tough assignments this year — he threw against (Lexington) Catholic and got the win. He’s had to pitch against some tough teams, and we thought he’d be ready mentally.”
Hamilton said he knows the early runs made things easier for Carroll.
“That makes the pitches come out of your hand easier,” Hamilton said. “We were glad to get the runs. (And) Josh did a heck of a job tonight. He battled, and we’re tickled to death.”
The first six West Jessamine batters reached base against Mercer starter J.T. Long, and the first four came around to score thanks to RBI singles by Dalton James, Tyler Ward and Michael Oaks and two Mercer errors.
The hit parade continued in the second inning, when the Colts sent eight batters to the plate for the second straight inning. James’ groundout produced a run, and a Tyler Pasch single made it 6-0.
West Jessamine got 13 hits in all off Long and reliever John Banks. No. 9 hitter Christian Beckley led the way, going 3-for-3 and walking in his other plate appearance.