GALVANIZED GATORS/Greenwood bats take control in sixth inning in 7-4 victory over South Warren


The threatening skies wouldn’t open until after everything was all said and done.

But Greenwood High School’s baseball team made sure its final KHSAA 14th District regular-season game would be a critical one.

The Gators exploded for five sixth-inning runs after an unusual call for base runner’s interference, and Greenwood reliever Chaze Huff retired the final 11 South Warren batters he faced, sending the home team to a hard-fought, 7-4 victory over their crosstown rival from Nashville Road on an overcast Monday evening at Corey Hart Ballpark.

Greenwood (20-5, 4-1 in the KHSAA’s 14th District) earned its sixth victory in seven games, increasing the stakes for Game Two of the series on Tuesday night at South Warren Ballpark. The Spartans (15-12, 4-1 in the 14th District) and Greenwood will scrap for the No. 1 seed in next month’s district tournament in the rematch, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.

(They moved first pitch up a few minutes on Monday, what with the threatening weather that hit South Central Kentucky after nightfall.)

“We’ve still got an uphill battle,” Greenwood coach Jason Jaggers said in a cautious tone.

Veteran South Warren coach Chris Gage said the Gators deserved “all the credit,” even after a prolonged delay for an umpires’ call of runner’s interference in the critical sixth inning.

Neither coach was ready to commit to a starting pitcher for Game Two afterward. The winning team will gain a significant advantage for postseason play, while the losing squad will be thrust into the “cut-throat” 2-vs.-3 elimination semifinal to open the tournament at Bowling Green High School. BGHS (22-4. 2-3 in the KHSAA 14th District), Greenwood and South Warren are all in the top six for the KHSAA’s unusually deep 4th Region, but no more than two of them will advance to the regional tournament at WKU’s Nick Denes Field.

South Warren and junior reliever Ethan Reynolds were cruising with a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when the Gators’ Jackson Lee and Drake Bowers opened the frame with back-to-back singles.

The Gators tried to cut the lead in half on a safety squeeze by sophomore infielder Whitt Glosick, but Reynolds charged in from the mound and got the ball to South Warren catcher Casey Green in time to retire Lee, leaving the Spartans in front 4-2.

Chaze Huff, the winning pitcher, reached on an infield single to load the bases with one out, at which point everything changed.

Pinch hitter Rylan Graves slapped a ball to the right side, when the Gators were called for runner’s interference. Bowers appeared to have scored, but after TWO lengthy delays, he was sent back to third base, leaving the Gators down by two runs with runners on the corners.

Then, boom.

Greenwood pitcher/shortstop Zach Davis lined a two-run single to center field, tying the game at 4.

Then, another boom.

Greenwood’s Cy Talley lined a double to right-center field, giving the Gators their first lead of the game at 6-4.

Finally, boom-shocka-locka, the Gators’ Andrew Jolly delivered another double, also to right-center field, scoring Talley and putting Greenwood clearly in control.

“We usually hit better against fastball pitchers,” Davis said. “You don’t have to time to think about it. Just put a couple hits together …”

“That’s what we do,” Jolly added.

It was a difficult defeat for the Spartans, who seemed to be on the fast track to victory.

“That (apparent) run on the interference call, that didn’t count,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said. “It did cause (confusion), things got a little disjointed … They hit some line drives. (Greenwood) did a lot of the little things right.”

Davis, Greenwood’s starting pitcher, moved to shortstop when Chaze Huff was summoned from the bullpen in the third. Ethan Reynolds and Griffin Rardin opened the inning with back-to-back singles, and Ty Croghan’s sacrifice put two runners in scoring position with one out. Jaxxen Decker’s sinking line drive to right field fell for an RBI single, scoring Reynolds, before Kye Rich’s hard-hit grounder was booted for an error, bringing Rardin across the plate.

In the top of the first inning, Reynolds connected on a Davis pitch for his team-leading seventh home run of the season, a shot to right-center field, and Rardin followed with a double before scoring on Kye Rich’s RBI single.

Huff, who worked the final five innings on the mound for the Gators, allowed just two hits with one walk while earning his third victory in four decisions. Reynolds (3-2) took the loss for the Gators, after South left-hander Mikey Coradini took the Spartans into the fifth inning before struggling with his control.

“I really just try to trust my defense, throw strikes and try to get (the opponent) to put the ball in play,” Huff said.

It was an unusual game, increasing the stakes for Game Two of the series at South Warren.

“That’s baseball … that’s why they play 162 games in the Major Leagues,” South coach Chris Gage said.

The KHSAA 14th District Tournament will unfold in mid-May at Bowling Green High School. Two teams will move onto 4th Region play. Stay tuned.