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Beechwood can’t get big hit against an Apollo team that did as Tigers fall in first round of state baseball

By Dan Weber

NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON – It was the kind of game where Beechwood’s opponents look up at the scoreboard after the last inning and ask: “How did that happen?”

Only the team doing the asking Thursday night at Lexington’s Counter Clocks Stadium was Ninth Region champ Beechwood.

How did that happen, Beechwood fans and players were asking as they stared at the scoreboard and saw the line in the seventh inning for Apollo’s Eagles.

It read: 3-2-1 . . . three runs on two hits. Which were all the suburban Owensboro team needed.

All Beechwood Coach Kevin Gray could do was shake his head at the thought of what just happened in his team’s 3-0 first-round loss.

Just more of the “weird stuff” that happens when you go downstate. As Gray noted that this was the second straight shutout pitched against his Tigers in the state tournament after last year’s second-round loss to Russell County.

“And we never get shut out,” Gray said of his offensive-minded Tigers who got a terrific start from senior Matt Kappes, who had a one-hit shutout going into the sixth inning.

And then, with two bases on balls and an error, Apollo had the bases loaded with no outs. A force out at the plate and then a running catch in left by Nazario Pangallo and the Tigers had dodged two bullets.

But not the third as cleanup hitter Sam Holder did just that with a triple into the left-centerfield gap that emptied the bases, giving Third Region champ Apollo (24-12), an almost insurmountable lead in a game where Beechwood had managed just four hits and would have just one more shot.

“They got a big hit, we didn’t,” Gray said simply. “Really just one, but one they needed.”

Not that Beechwood, even with just four hits, didn’t have its chances with two hits each in the first and fifth innings. But that next hit to drive them in never came.

“We had our opportunities,” Gray said, “we just didn’t capitalize on them.” Apollo ace Noah Cook (now 10-3) wouldn’t let them.

“He had a really good curve ball . . . we worked on it and worked on it,” Gray said, but the Tigers mostly got out front of the ball.

Not the kind of contact they made this season with the late, almost miraculous, comebacks against St. Henry n the All “A” Classic regional final or the game against Highlands when they got down 10-0 or the Dixie Heights semifinal regional game when they were all but dead and gone before Landon Johnson’s pinch-hit heroics. All come-from-behind wins.

Cameron Boyd

All Gray said he could hope for in that final inning was to get a couple of guys on with Cameron Boyd, the state’s leading home run hitter who had already hit the ball hard once, up. And that’s exactly what he got after a hit-by-pitch and a bases on ball to open the seventh.

“Here we go again,” Gray told himself. “I was hoping for a gapper” scoring two runs with Cameron on third.

But with two outs, Boyd had the bat taken out of his hands when a breaking ball at least six inches off the plate outside was called the second strike. The next pitch – a fastball a foot outside — saw Boyd weakly wave at it, afraid to let the outside pitch go by, but missing to end the season and his high school career.

“He’s done it so many times,” Gray said of his across-the-board stat leader with a long list of big hits. Was he mad at himself or the umpire? Gray wasn’t sure as he calmed down his senior with high expectations of himself.

Which is where the rest of the postgame talk went.

“It’s not always about winning,” Gray told his guys. “It’s about how hard you worked to get here. I’ve never been more proud. You’ve set the culture,” he told his 11 seniors who have won a regional all three of their years . . . Love you guys, I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

The footnote for this Beechwood team is how they went through this spring missing two all-state players – pitcher/outfielder Mitch Berger, out with knee surgery from a late-season football injury, and catcher Brice Estep, who took his senior year at a South Carolina baseball prep school.

To his seniors specifically, Gray had this message: “I told them they put their mark on Beechwood baseball, they have a legacy.”

APOLLO 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 – 3-2-1
BEECHWOOD 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 4-0
WP: Cook (10-3); LP: Kappes (7-3)

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