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RIVER RAT: Baseball district race a jumbled mess

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Tigers' win over Eagles creates 4-way tie chance

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Well, that was interesting.

I managed to get back to Bardstown’s baseball field from the tennis regionals in E’town on Tuesday just in time to catch the final few plays of the Tigers’ 11-9 win over Bethlehem.

It was a win that, while deceptive at first glance, was defined by some great pitching. True, it sounded crazy when I was told that Tuesday night, but it made more sense when I checked out the stats on Wednesday morning.

The high-powered Bethlehem offense got to Bardstown’s Reece Puckett for three earned runs in the first on three singles and a walk, then six more in the second — all unearned — aided by three errors.

Tigers coach Glenn Koger had the gumption to stick with the freshman phenom, and he settled down after that, as did the defense behind him (Puckett struck out just one Eagle batter), and didn’t allow a run the rest of the way.

That gave Puckett’s team time to rally at the plate, and they chipped away at a Bethlehem pitching staff for 13 hits, a staff that has played seven games in seven days as of Wednesday morning. The biggest blow came in the Tigers’ five-run fifth, taking the lead for good at 11-9 after being down 9-3 in the second. Puckett was one of five Bardstown players with two hits apiece, his being a pair of doubles to go with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Why spend so much time — a column even — expounding upon one of many district games throughout the season (20 in all contested between the five teams)? Especially in a crowded sports section where most individual games get just a couple of column inches of coverage in the paper?

Well, it’s because of the ripple effect that game had on making an already murky district tournament picture indecipherably muddy. And I’ve never seen anything like it in 13 years of covering high school baseball here and elsewhere.

Take a look:

 

19th District Baseball Standings as of 5/6

Nelson Co. 5-2 (Beth 5/8)

Washington Co. 5-2 (@BHS 5/7)

Bethlehem 4-3 (@NC 5/8)

Bardstown 3-3 (WC 5/7, TNHS 5/8)

Thomas Nelson 0-7 (@BHS 5/8)

 

As you see, there’s a very real possibility that, by 9:30 or so Friday night, we could be staring at a four-way tie for the top seed in the 19th District tournament, which is a little more than a week away. All that has to happen is Bardstown to win its final two district games at home, and for Bethlehem to avenge a stunning 3-2 walkoff loss April 21 by winning at Nelson County on Friday.

If you’ve been paying attention during this “on any given day” kind of season, you’ll know that I’m not grasping at straws here.

This is the tiebreaker situation as of Wednesday (the second game between district teams during the regular season serves as the tiebreaker):

Bardstown — owns tiebreaker over Bethlehem by virtue of 11-9 win Tuesday. Could claim tiebreaker over Washington by beating Commanders Thursday.

Bethlehem — would claim tiebreaker over Nelson County with win Friday.

Nelson County — currently owns tiebreakers over Bardstown and Washington County.

Washington County — currently owns tiebreaker over Bethlehem.

 

The Cardinals are in the best position to claim the top seed, as a win over the Eagles on Friday would make Nelson County 6-2 with tiebreaker priority over everyone else.

If the Commanders can win at Bardstown on Thursday — they came from behind to beat the Tigers in Springfield last Tuesday — they’ll become Bethlehem fans on Friday. A Bethlehem win there would vault Washington County into the top spot at 6-2, with the Cards and Eagles at 5-3.

Bethlehem, of course, needs the Tigers to win Thursday and Friday, and beat Nelson County to have any prayer at the top seed.

Two wins by Bardstown puts the Tigers at 5-3 and hoping for a Bethlehem win over Nelson County. That would leave the Tigers and Cardinals each having two tiebreaker wins in the four-way logjam, but Nelson County has priority over Bardstown in a head-to-head scenario.

I asked around a bit, and Butch Cope of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association forwarded me a copy of the district seeding and tiebreaker rules adopted by representatives of the 19th District all the way back in May 2005 and on file with the KHSAA office.

The document states, in the case of a four-way tie, simply: “A blind draw will be held for all four positions.”

So there’s that.

This document was adopted well before Thomas Nelson came on the scene, changing up the balance of the district. It will be interesting to see if school officials will reconsider this format, in light of the changes to the district landscape in the decade since these rules were agreed upon. That, of course, will come too late to change anything this year.

I do know a couple of things, though:

• No team wants to be the odd man out as the No. 4 seed in that tiebreaker scenario, to have technically finished first, then have to use their top pitcher to try and match zeros with Thomas Nelson ace Clay Druin — lights-out all year long — in a play-in district game just to get a chance to play for a region tournament berth.

• I’ve never seen anything like this in 13 years as a high school sports reporter. Did I mention that already? This is going to be a fun district tournament, however the seeds shake out.