BARBALAS BRINGS IT/Warren East left-hander hurls 1-hitter in 9-1 victory over South Warren


Warren East High School’s battery, sophomore left-hander Andrew Barbalas and senior catcher Micah Ford, were killing time in the Raiders’ dugout when Barbalas got up and briefly walked away.

Barbalas, in his first full varsity season, was preparing for a start against crosstown rival South Warren High School, a quarterfinalist in the KHSAA state tournament last season with no shortage of potent bats.

“When Andrew threw up, we knew that his nerves were gone,” Ford said with a grin. “And he went out there, and things fell into place.”

Did they ever.

Barbalas, the 15-year-old sophomore, pounded the zone and usually stayed ahead in the count, guiding Warren East to a 9-1 victory over the Spartans on Tuesday evening at Raiders Ballpark. Barbalas allowed just one hit, Ethan Reynolds’ RBI single to shallow center field in the fifth inning, while striking out 12 batters.

The performance included four called third strikes, a couple of hits for Barbalas at the plate, and the handy air sickness bag, something Ford, Barbalas and senior outfielder Ayden Barrick were laughing about, after the game.

“I went through my normal routine,” Barbalas said. “Exercise bands, some back stretches … “

Barbalas acknowledged he can get a little nauseous before pitching, but once he got that out of his system, it was all systems go.

“Mostly the curveball and the fastball,” Barbalas said. “At the end I was getting my change-up over the plate …”

It was a significant victory for the Raiders, who played poorly on Monday night in a 15-0 loss at Franklin-Simpson. That was a welcome sign for veteran Warren East coach Wes Sanford, whose squad improved to 6-5 overall heading into next week’s four-game Spring Break road trip to St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Andrew’s going to be special, if he keeps working,” Sanford said. “He was really attacking the zone. We played awful (against Franklin-Simpson) … Micah’s worked very hard turning himself into a catcher. We lost 10 seniors from last year’s team, and (South Warren) is a really good team.”

South Warren coach Chris Gage pointed out that the Spartans have played five games in as many days, when they probably could benefit from some time on the practice field. Starting pitcher Kye Rich worked 2 2/3 innings and took the loss for South, giving up eight hits before yielding to teammate James Graham.

South Warren will take a 7-3 overall record into Thursday’s road game at Allen County-Scottsville, and the Spartans will travel to Pensacola, Florida, for their four-game Spring Break trip next week.

“When you don’t practice much, it shows up,” Gage said. “We’ve got one of the toughest stretches you’ll see in the state of Florida — Pace High School, Pensacola Catholic, Gulf Breeze — so we’ve got to get some things figured out.

“It all starts on the mound.”

That was certainly the case for Barbalas and the Raiders. Barbalas escaped a second-inning jam by striking out Brady Hester to retire the side, and Warren East catcher Micah Ford sent the Raiders back to their dugout with a pickoff throw to first base, retiring Spartans shortstop Griffin Rardin.

Barbalas evened his record at 1-1.

“Our last six games, we’re 4-2,” Warren East coach Wes Sanford said. “We lost 10 seniors from last year’s team, so we’ll have to work through some things. We’ll get back on the practice field before we go to Florida.”

Senior center fielder Ayden Barrick, the Raiders’ leadoff man, went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a fifth-inning double. Warren East’s Maddox Tarrance delivered a two-run single to left-center field in the second inning, extending the Raiders’ lead to 5-0, and the Spartans struggled in almost every way imaginable in giving up a three-spot in the third.

South Warren’s Ethan Reynolds, who has committed to play baseball at Western Kentucky University, is off to a particularly fast start at the plate. The Spartans’ third baseman is batting .600-plus, with five home runs, four other extra-base hits and 24 RBI.