PERU — Facing a four-run deficit entering the top of the seventh inning against undefeated Kentucky on Monday, District 20 managed to get a rally going.
District 20 scored three runs, but the comeback fell short with a strikeout for the final out with a runner on third base as the host team lost, 5-4, in the Senior League Central Region Tournament at Washington Park.
With the loss, District 20 finishes 0-4 in pool play, while Kentucky finishes 4-0 to secure the No. 1 seed for Tuesday’s bracket play.
“Kentucky didn’t have a loss and we came ready to play,” District 20 coach Jay Urbanski said. “We were watching our pitching the first three games. Today, A.J. Hermes pitched a great game and our hitting and base running were there. All around, we played good.”
With District 20 being the No. 8 seed and Kentucky the No. 1, the teams will play again at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Washington Park in Peru with the winner advancing to Wednesday’s semifinals.
“I’d say it will be very similar to today,” Kentucky coach Steve Byrd said. “It’ll be a fight. Once you get into the tournament (portion), nothing is easy, so I definitely anticipate they’re going to be at their top level, and hopefully we perform at our best, and we’ll see how it comes out.”
Urbanski said District 20′s pitching is set up nicely for the bracket portion of the tournament with Jacob Gross set to start against Kentucky.
“He’s another ace who hasn’t pitched in the tournament,” Urbanski said. “We kind of saved him for this moment, so hopefully we can pull out a W.”
District 20 had a solid start Monday as leadoff hitter Adrian Arzola drew a walk, advanced to third on a single – with an error on the play – by Reegan Kellett and scored on a sacrifice fly by Gross.
However, Kentucky responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning with the help of an error, three walks, a hit batter and RBI singles by Keaton Creech and Reece Noble.
“The big thing for us is just discipline at the plate,” Byrd said. “We don’t want to chase anything that’s out of the zone. As long as we keep doing that, we tend to have a lot of success. That’s what we did today and it gave us a chance to get up a couple runs.”
Kentucky had a run each in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the fifth, Austin Byrd walked, stole second and advanced to third on the errant throw and scored on a wild pitch.
Cole Harville led off the sixth with a single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Creech.
District 20 managed to get its rally going against Byrd, who came on in relief of Creech, who pitched six innings, allowing one run on four hits with three strikeouts, four walks and a hit batter.
Miles Main was hit by a pitch to start the seventh and Hermes drew a walk before Arzola delivered an RBI single to left field.
Aiden Mulane hit a two-run single through the left side of the infield to pull District 20 within a run with no outs.
Gross ripped a double to right but Mulane was thrown out at the plate on the play.
The next batter grounded out before Byrd struck out the next batter to end the game.
“We had some substitutions and they came through,” Urbanski said. “Their pitcher hit a batter and walked a guy and we converted. We should have pulled it out.”
Hermes took the loss for District 20, allowing four runs (one earned) on three hits with three strikeouts, nine walks and a hit batter in 4 2/3 innings.
Kian Zeller pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits with no strikeouts and two walks.
Earlier Monday, District 20 lost to Indiana, 9-3, while Kentucky defeated Iowa, 11-1.
Other Monday scores were Illinois 12, Ohio 2; Michigan 10, Missouri 8; and Michigan 16, Ohio 3.
Tuesday’s matchups are Kentucky vs. District 20 at Washington Park and No. 2 Indiana (3-1) vs. No. 7 Missouri (1-3) at Veterans Park at 9 a.m. followed by No. 3 Michigan (3-1) vs. No. 6 Ohio (1-3) at Washington and No. 4 Iowa (2-2) vs. No. 5 Illinois (2-2) at Veterans at noon.