Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

May 7, 2014

Ashland downs West Carter

By Aaron Snyder - CNHI News Service
Journal-Times

May 7, 2014 — Jared Slone finally pinpointed the missing piece from the picture.

His father behind the fence.

Slone, who struggled to find his hitting stroke for the bulk of the season, piled four more marks into a ballooning hit column. He also drove in four runs as Ashland put away West Carter, 14-4, in five innings on Monday at Alumni Field.

The Comets hadn’t lost since April 10. The Tomcats came in mindful of that fact, said Slone.

“We looked at it like, we’re still Ashland. We’re still the team to beat,” Slone said. “We’re the two-time (16th Region) defending champs, but we weren’t playing like it at the beginning of the year. Now that we’re swinging the bat, we’re playing like champions.”

Ashland tallied 10 hits, including five in a decisive — and destructive, for West Carter — fifth inning as the Tomcats sent 11 batters to the plate. Cam Fritz’s RBI groundout scored the eighth run of the frame, ending the mercy-rule contest.

Ashland has now collected 43 hits over the past four games, all wins. The Tomcats hadn’t broken the two-run threshold in six consecutive games before last Thursday’s 5-1 defeat of Fairview. They took a six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s game against Rowan County.

Slone desperately needed a boost in confidence, he admitted. The leadoff hitter racked his brain for answers until late last week.

“I was changing everything, and I was like, what is different this year?” Slone said.

Slone’s father, David, had been keeping a scorebook and operating a video camera from the press box until Friday’s game against Bath County.

“I told him I needed him down here, to talk to me,” Slone said. “Ever since I was little, he’s always been down by the fence chirping in my ear about what to do. He mostly just says, ‘poke it in right field,’ or just tells me where (fielders) are playing. Just little things. I just like having that visual in my head of him back there seeing what I’m not seeing.”

West Carter had the loudest bat crack of the night. Eighth-grader Peyton Brown touched up Slone for a leadoff home run.

Ashland quickly answered with a two-run inning, highlighted by an Aaron Elam RBI single.

West Carter responded in the third with a pair of runs on a sharp single up the middle by Ben Jordan.

The see-saw teetered in Ashland’s favor once again in its half of the third when Slone and Casey Clark scored with the help of a Comet error and an Evan Cox RBI grounder.

After Ashland added two more in the fourth, West Carter whipped up a threat with three straight singles on Slone, prompting Ashland coach Jeff Wilcox to call for Fritz to relieve his starter.

With the score at 6-4, Fritz struck out Ben Jordan looking and Spencer Phillips swinging to halt the rally and leave two Comets stranded.

“Cam’s one of our best pitchers but he’s also, in my mind, the best catcher in the region,” Wilcox said. “It’s hard for me to take him out of that spot.”

Ashland (15-7) batted through the lineup plus one in the fifth before West Carter induced a Fritz groundout, the first out of the inning which also brought in the final run.

Every Tomcat reached base at least once as West Carter rolled through four pitchers, including starter Kaden Rose. All but one scored at least one run.

Peyton Brown and J.T. Johnson, the No. 2 hitter, went a combined 5-for-6 on the evening for West Carter (17-3). Brown scored three runs.

Dalton Brown played four different positions — right fielder, shortstop, left fielder and pitcher — for the Comets.

West Carter Coach Tim Johnson said the Comets thought they were “invincible.”

“That obviously wasn’t the case,” he said. “We weren’t mentally prepared tonight. We had three or four baserunning errors, and three fielding errors. Tonight was a great learning experience for some of our kids.

“Ashland kept pressure on us all night,” he added.