LEXINGTON – To beat one of the top baseball teams in the state, you have to limit your mistakes.
The Campbell County baseball team went toe-to-toe with McCracken County, ranked third in the state coaches poll, Saturday night.
But late miscues cost the Camels in a 4-3 loss to the Mustangs in the state quarterfinals of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association state baseball tournament at the University of Kentucky’s Kentucky Proud Park.
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Campbell, in the state tourney for the second-straight year, finished 24-11. McCracken (35-6) moves on to next weekend’s semifinals for the sixth-straight season.
The Camels out-hit the favored Mustangs 6-5, but committed two errors, walked three batters and hit two, while McCracken walked one batter and committed only one error.
“We have a bright future,” said Campbell head coach Scott Schweitzer. “These seniors have done amazing stuff at giving us the ability to continue with this program and keep the wheels going. I’m excited to see what’s coming next.”
The Camels got a gutsy performance from Jake Napier, who pitched four ins, striking out nine and allowing four hits and four runs, two earned. He threw 90 pitches and was replaced in the fifth by Zach Franzen, who allowed one hit and no runs.
“Our pitchers pitched their tails off,” Schweitzer said. “Jake Napier goes out as a senior probably throwing the best game I’ve seen him pitch. Zach Franzen was lights-out as a freshman.”
The Camels scored in the top of the first after Greg Vineyard, Evan Clark and Jake Gross all singled to load the bases. Gross’s was a bunt.
Zack Riley hit a sacrifice fly, but Tyler Fowler grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Napier struck out the side in the first inning, and only allowed one baserunner in the second after hitting him.
“Outcome-wise, he’s had better, but this is as good as I’ve seen his stuff,” Schweitzer said. “Their lineup is good. Those kids are as good as any team we’ll see in the state. It was 4-3 and we gave ourselves a chance, and that’s all I can ask for.”
With one out in the third, Vineyard walked and Clark singled him to second. Vineyard later scored on a passed ball with the bases loaded but the Camels left runners on second and third and led 2-0.
McCracken scored in the bottom of the third after a leadoff triple by Scout Moffatt.
Campbell got the run back after Parker Schweitzer led off with a single. With two outs, No. 9 hitter Caeleb James doubled to drive in courtesy runner Carson Clark. James was left on second.
The bottom of the fourth was when momentum turned.
The Mustangs loaded the bases with one out off Napier after two walks and an error. Jude Farley drove in one run with a single. Napier later hit Miller Green with the bases loaded but left two on by striking out Jake Bennett, who was recently named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky.
McCracken took the lead in the fifth on a walk, single and an error.
That run was all the Mustangs needed after Caleb Ehling retired the final 10 Camel batters of the night.
“I told the guys if we play our brand of baseball, we’ll have a chance, and we played our brand of baseball except for one inning,” Schweitzer said.
The Camels stay loose in the dugouts with some of them wearing goofy hats. Two players had hats shaped like tacos on their heads.
“We lost tonight, but I promise you we had more fun in the dugout than anybody,” Schweitzer said. “The name of the game is we’re going to enjoy ourselves. We’re high school kids, we’re going to have as much fun as possible. I love these guys and 10 of them walk away today. It’s tough.”