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Kirby Smith knew three weeks ago, but Chase Thomas didn’t find out until 2 1/2 hours before the opening pitch on Monday.
The rest of the 20th District felt the ramifications as Campbellsville knocked off regular-season champion Adair County 4-2 on the Indians’ home field in the opening game of the 20th District Baseball Tournament.
“I felt like we are so much better defensively (with Austin Hash catching and Zach Durham at shortstop since regular catcher Stealth Townley got hurt) and Adair County is such an aggressive team,” remarked Smith, the CHS head coach, on his choice of the freshman southpaw.
“He did well against (region favorite) Central Hardin and kept us close.
“Our goal (in this game) was to have a lead in the first inning and be leading going to the bottom of the sixth.”
Smith’s Eagles were a perfect 2-2 on his projections.
CHS, which had lost its previous six district tilts this season (while Adair had won all six of its) and had fallen to the Indians 19-4 some 32 days ago on the same field, struck first when Clayton Russell singled with one out, stole second and came in on Hash’s two-out single.
Adair County (25-10) took the lead in the bottom of the frame when Colton Back was hit by a pitch, sacrificed to second by Ross Hutchison and scored on Will Hixson’s single. After an infield error, a strike-out and another hit batsman, the Indians took the lead on a wild pitch.
After three scoreless innings by each team, the Eagles took the lead in the top of the fifth without the benefit of a hit.
Chris Sexton, who had a one-out double in the second, reached on an error and Josh Roe was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice by Tony Barrera, Durham’s bunt-out gave CHS the lead at 2-1.
The Eagles (15-20) loaded the bases in the sixth on singles by Caleb Gupton, J.T. Holmes and Bradley Bates.
After Indians’ coach Ryan McQueary switched pitchers from Hixson to Hutchison, a 1-2-3 inning-ending double play did not materialize when Sexton reached on an errant throw to first for a 3-1 cushion. CHS made it 4-1 when Adair County threw the ball away at home on an Eagle double-steal attempt.
Thomas, who struck out seven, retired the last 13 batters, 16 of the final 17 and 17 of the last 19 to give Campbellsville its sixth straight opening-round triumph in the 20th District Tournament.
“I had butterflies early,” the 14-year-old acknowledged. “But, I felt comfortable pitching against Adair (although he had never faced them) since coach (Zach) Lewis and coach Smith had gone over all the hitters with me.”
Campbellsville will go for its sixth straight district championship on Thursday at 8:30 against the Taylor County-Marion County survivor, who start the activities at 6:00 at Lindsey Wilson College.