DANVILLE — Lincoln County coach Brad McNew was feeling good about his team’s chances of making its first regional semifinal appearance since 2006 after building a 4-1 lead over Somerset Monday in the opening round of the 12th Region Tournament.
Lincoln held the three-run advantage going into the bottom of the sixth at Admiral Field, however, the Briar Jumpers turned the tables on the Bat Patriots, exploding for seven runs and nine of their 13 hits in the inning to steal a 8-4 win and advance to the semifinals.
Somerset (25-11), the 47th District champion, sent 12 batters to the plate in the big inning, including senior Jarred Price who led off with a solo home run then later doubled. But it was sophomore Jacob Pelston providing the biggest bat for the Briar Jumpers when he blasted a grand slam home run in the sixth to plate the winning runs.
“We’re sitting 4-1 going into the sixth inning and we’re probably feeling pretty good about ourselves. But it just didn’t work out,” McNew said. “The sixth inning was huge. We go up there and then they just put their sticks together. It didn’t matter what we threw up there, they hit everything in that one inning.”
“Hats off to Somerset. They are a good hitting team. This was a regional tournament game and it’s do or die. You’ve got to survive until the very last out and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
Taylor Speaks followed Price’s homer with a one-out double and his courtesy runner, Addison Thompson, made it 4-3 when he scored on a Will Lange single to left field. Pinch hitter Andy Manning doubled to left field to move Lange around then Curtis Pelston continued the slugfest with an RBI double to left to score Lange and even the game up at 4-all.
The Curtis Pelston double marked the end of Lincoln starter Zach Brown’s time on the mound. The Bat Patriot junior, who gave up nine hits with four strikeouts, was relieved by freshman Logan Young.
Young intentionally walked Storm Wilson to load up the bases, which set up Jacob Pelston’s grand slam. Pelston’s shot over the left-field fence gave Somerset its first lead of the game and an 8-4 advantage with only one inning to play.
“I was still feeling pretty good after Price hit his home run,”¿said McNew. “He gets a home run to lead off the inning and we get the next guy out. So we’re sitting there feeling pretty good with one out and it’s 4-2. And then they just started pounding it. They scored all the runs they needed in that one inning.”
“I’m not going to let Wilson hit us, so I walked him then the two-hole hits a grand slam. What can you say? Every little hole they could find they hit to it. But in the college world series and regional tournaments, you’re going to see games like that where teams are up and then — Boom! — the other team comes back and gets the win.”
Lincoln (20-18) was making the noise early in the game, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Dylan King tagged a solo home run off Somerset starter Heath Ehrsam to lead off the inning then Tanner Leigh, who reached on a throwing error, scored on a fielder’s choice.
Somerset got back a run in the bottom of the inning when Charlie Dishman hit a solo home run to left field.
The score remained 2-1 until the top of the sixth when Chase Pemberton hit a two-run home run to left centerfield to give Lincoln a 4-1 lead. Ryne Otto, who singled to left to reach, scored on the Pemberton long ball.
Lincoln had threatened to score earlier in the game only to be denied by Somerset with a triple play.
In the first inning, Michael Wilcher singled to lead off for the Bat Patriots, moved to second off a dropped ball hit by Nick Smith then advanced to third on a throwing error. Somerset managed to escape unscathed when a Vinny Morris grounder hit back to Ehrsam was fielded and thrown to shortstop Cody Carrender, who touched second and fired to Speaks at first base for the second out. Speaks then threw to Dishman at the plate to get out Wilcher.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the team,” said McNew. “I felt pretty good coming into today. Then we got the early lead and I was feeling even better. Pembo got that two-run homer and Dylan got the solo homer to get us going. They played hard but it just wasn’t enough today.”
Monday’s game was the final for five Bat Patriots — Vinny Morris, Ryne Otto, Chase Pemberton, Nick Smith, Michael Wilcher. Five players who McNew says will be missed.
“Our five seniors, I can’t say enough about them,”¿he said. “I love them to death and they’ve left a footprint on this program. They’ve really helped this program develop. With them, we’ve gotten to two region tournaments back-to-back and there aren’t many Lincoln teams that have done that. They had a 20-win season and for that they can be proud. They’ve played hard and we will miss them.”
Somerset advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals to play Mercer County, a 6-0 winner over Wayne County in Monday’s opening round. Danville and West Jessamine met in the second semifinal game. (Results were unavailable at press time.) The 12th Region championship game is set for today (Thursday) at 6 p.m. at Admiral Field.