Defending state champs fall in region semifinals
HARDIN VALLEY — Hardin Valley won’t get the chance to defend its 2015 Class AAA State Championship.
The Hawks saw its season come to an abrupt end in Monday night’s Region 2-AAA Semifinals. HVA came up on the short end of a 2-1 nine-inning contest against Powell at home.
“It’s tough,” Hawks coach Joe Michalski said. “It’s tough because any time that you get to this point, you can almost taste it because you’re two wins away from going to the State Tournament.
“We came into the season wanting to win a state championship and we went after it.”
Powell, the District 3-AAA runner-up, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when pitcher Peyton Alford’s sacrifice fly plated Cameron Payne with the game’s first run.
The Hawks (27-8-1) tied the game with a run in the bottom of the opening frame. Dylan Harris led off with a single and later scored when senior Tyler Thompson (an Austin Peay signee) tripled.
“Dylan legged out an infield hit and he scored when Tyler tripled,” Michalski said. “Our kids really competed hard. But Powell was really competing hard too.
“This is a disappointment because we really thought that we would win this game. This was one of the best baseball games that I’ve ever seen. It’s a game that I will never forget. It stinks to come out on the wrong end of a game like this. We thought we would win. But Powell had the same kind of attitude. These things just happen sometimes.”
Hardin Valley sophomore starter Ryder Green (a Kentucky commitment) battled Alford pitch for pitch but left the game with one out in the top of the seventh. Green surrendered an unearned run, five hits and three walks before giving way to Thompson, who went 2 2/3 innings. He gave up a hit, an unearned run and three walks. He struck out three Panthers.
Powell (22-14) scored the eventual winning run in the top of the ninth. Payne singled to lead off the frame and stole second. He advanced to third when Thompson uncorked a wild pitch.
Payne, who stole two bases and scored both of the Panthers’ runs, came home with the go-ahead run when Noah Malicoat singled.
Hardin Valley had two runners on in the ninth but Alford escaped damage.
“My guys battled,” Michalski said. “Ryder pitched well and so did Tyler. But Peyton did a great job.
“We had four or five great plays that kept us in the game. When we had those two runners on in the ninth, we thought we would win the game.”
Michalski was obviously emotionally shaken after the game but he took the time to commend the 2016 senior class for its accomplishments.
“This group of seniors won the first District 4 championship in school history this year,” Michalski said. “They won a State Championship last year and they also won a District 3 Championship.
“The one year that they didn’t win a district championship, they finished in first place during the regular season.”