40th District Tournament: Stoneking's blast carries Cards to title
Clark base runner Malik Warner slides safely into home plate following a passed ball underneath flying Bourbon¿County pitcher Chase Mullins in the second inning of the Cardinals¿ 5-3 triumph over the Colonels Wednesday night. (Keith Tayloremail@example.com / May 24, 2012)
Ahead in the count at 2-0, Stoneking waited patiently for a pitch down the middle and pulled the trigger. The result was a two-run home run with two outs in the seventh inning that broke a 3-3 deadlock and sent George Rogers Clark to an exciting 5-3 victory over the Colonels in the finals of the 40th District Tournament Wednesday night at Cardinal Field.
“I went in there with confidence, knowing I had to do something for the team and do whatever we could do to pull out this win,” Stoneking said afterward. “It means a lot, especially for the coaches. I knew (Mullins) was going to come to me, so I was thinking fastball the whole way.”
Stoneking had a pivotal role in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory over neighboring Montgomery County Tuesday night with a sacrifice fly that scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth-inning. Following his game-winning shot Wednesday night, Stoneking went to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and struck out two of the four hitters he faced, including Mullins to end the contest.
Clark coach Matt Ginter wasn’t surprised by Stoneking’s performances in the two district encounters.
“He’s been a big part of postseason play,” Ginter said. “He’s hitting .400 for the year and he’s been coming up with some big at-bats for us. He comes in there and closes the door at the end and there’s not much more we can ask for.”
Both teams will advance to next week’s 10th¿Region Tournament at Montgomery County. Clark (19-13), the defending regional champion, lost to the Colonels 10-4 in last year’s district finale, before rebounding to beat the Colonels 14-4 in five innings in the regional championship at Campbell County High School. The regional draw will be held Saturday morning at Harrison¿County High School.
Stoneking’s heroics came after Bourbon County scored three runs in the third inning on a bases-loaded single by Mullins that tied the score at 3-3. During the next four innings, the Colonels stranded four base runners. Clark managed just four hits off Mullins, but three of those went for extra bases. McQuerry ripped a double off the fence that plated a run in the first inning and Stoneking laced a two-bagger in the fifth inning.
“These guys have battled all year long,” Ginter said. “We scratch, claw and do what we can (to win games).”
Mullins, a University of Kentucky signee, fanned 12 batters and issued eight walks. The Cards scored two runs in the second inning on a pair of passed balls by the senior left-hander and built a 3-0 lead after the first two innings before Mullins used his bat to even things up again in the third frame.
Clark pitchers Hunter Osborne, McQuerry and Stoneking limited the Colonels to five hits and combined for nine strikeouts. Three of the Colonels’ five hits came off Osborne in the third frame.
“We had one inning where we had offense,” Bourbon County coach Nelson Faris said. “In the other six (innings), we didn’t hit, didn’t execute, they did and won the game. Stoneking came up, put a good swing on the ball, got it solid and it went.
“As hard as Chase throws, you get it solid, it will go. We’re swinging at the same fences and we had kids up there who just didn’t hit.”