June 9th, 2017

McCracken sends Trinity home packing

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer


McCracken sends Trinity home packing
Brody Heil strokes one of two base hits for Trinity / photo by Caroline Heil

Lexington, KY – At playoff time and in elimination games the old baseball adage that good pitching beats good hitting holds form more often than not.

And so it was that McCracken County junior left-hander Luke Seed out-dueled Trinity senior right-hander Brandon Pfaadt to give the Mustangs a 1-0 win over the Shamrocks in the opening round of the 2017 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament Friday afternoon at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Seed tossed six scoreless innings allowing just two Trinity singles and a walk. He struck out eight of the 21 batters he faced. Senior Caleb Reinhardt got the last three outs after Seed felt some pain in his throwing arm at the end of the sixth.

Meanwhile, Pfaadt nearly matched Seed’s effectiveness allowing just three hits and three walks. He allowed one run in the second, but that was all the Mustangs would need. The big senior struck out 12 of the 24 McCracken County hitters he faced.

Hard to find a better overall pitching performance from two high school teams anywhere.

“You tip your cap to Luke Seed and coach (Geno) Miller, those guys were great today,” Trinity head coach Rick Arnold said. “We just missed getting good contact on a couple of pitches, but I think the credit goes to their pitcher because he was dynamite. I know his (Seed’s) fastball doesn’t light up the radar gun, but you mix it in with that changeup it’s really, really effective.”

While Seed’s fastball was topping out around 83 m.p.h., his changeup deceived the Trinity hitters and kept them off balance all game.

“I knew they were concerned about my changeup, but that’s when coach would call a fastball and they had trouble with that,” Seed said. “I was really hitting my spots today.”

Inside and outside; top of the zone and bottom, Seed had it all working today. He credits a game from earlier in the year against a lineup as potent as Trinity’s that helped prep him for this one-and-done contest.

“In the Kentucky-Tennessee challenge we played Mt. Juliet and they were a great hitting team,” Seed said. “I had to think through every hitter, every pitch against them and that prepared me well having to face this Trinity lineup. They’re so good from top to bottom and I could draw on that experience from earlier this year. That helped me a lot today.”

Trinity managed leadoff singles from A.J. Arnold (second inning) and Brody Heil (third inning) and that was all for the Rocks bats. Heil reached third after a sac bunt and a groundout, but that’s all the Trinity bats could muster.

“He threw a heck of a game,” Pfaadt said of his pitching counterpart. “He kept us off balance, but he really hit his spots all game long. When he needed a strike, he’d paint his fastball and we just couldn’t get the one hit when we needed it.”

The McCracken County bats didn’t fare much better, but catcher James Michael Dodd led off the second stroking an inside fastball to the gap in left-center for a double. Dalton Eads took Dodd’s spot as the courtesy runner and would score on a two-out single off the bat of Kiael Walden that was just out of reach of Trinity first baseman Michael Blair.

“I made a good pitch on that double, but he put a better swing on it,” Pfaadt said of Dodd’s two-bagger. “And the single to score him was one of those seeing-eye hits, but it got the job done.”

This was McCracken County’s (33-5) fourth straight trip to the state tournament. Trinity, which ended its season 32-6-2, enjoyed its first trip to state since 2009.

“The experience thing didn’t come into play today, at least not for us,” Arnold said of his Shamrocks. “More than anything it was an outstanding performance from their pitcher that beat us. And we’ve faced some of the best pitchers in the state this year. His performance today ranks among the very best.”

Pfaadt’s first six outs were all strikeouts, four of them swinging and two looking. He recorded all three outs of an inning via the K on three occasions.

“Brandon was so sharp, but Luke was a little better than us today,” Trinity junior catcher Ben Metzinger said. “His (Seed’s) changeup was so nasty; it’s the best changeup I’ve ever seen. It just drops out of the zone and he was locating his fastball better than anyone we’ve seen all year.

“But Brandon was so strong and worked so hard every inning,” Metzinger said. “It’s just sad that we couldn’t push across any runs for him.”

McCracken County came into the game with a 7-2 record in contests decided by 2 runs or less. They’ve been tested and have the experience of being at the state tournament in all four years of the school’s existence.

“I thought it was huge for us to have been here the past four years,” Miller said. “We’ve had these expectations before and we know the routine. We didn’t put a lot of runs on the board, but we were confident throughout. This was a heck of a game and we knew it would be.

“Luke has pitched big games for us all year and he took this game as a challenge,” Miller said of his junior ace on the mound. “He’s a big game pitcher and he showed that today. He worked both sides of the plate and his changeup worked really well. Both pitchers showed their competitiveness and composure all game long.”

Seed and Reinhardt never allowed more than one Trinity baserunner in an inning. For the Rocks, it was only their third shutout of the season, with their last blanking coming against St. X in mid-April. Trinity averaged 8.1 runs per game coming into the state tournament.

“He (Seed) kept his composure when things weren’t going his way and he won every battle at the plate,” Arnold said. “Our kids battled, but we only had two hits. When that’s all you get and you only get one runner to third base, you’re probably not going to get the win. Brandon pushed hard, but Seed really shoved today. When he had to have a pitch, he got it.

“It was a great baseball game between two great high school baseball teams. I’d put these two teams up against anybody in the country. I hope they go on to win this tournament because they’re well-coached and they execute so well.

“We plan on returning,” Arnold continued. “There’s no doubt that their guys having been here four straight years gave them an edge, but it was still a great game on a beautiful day at a beautiful park. The difference was a ground ball with two outs that snuck through between our first and second basemen that wasn’t hit hard enough to give us a chance to throw out the runner at the plate. But it was execution and to their credit they did it. This experience will help us and we will be back here sooner rather than later.”

It’s the end of the road for several Trinity seniors including Brody Heil, Pfaadt, Matt Higgins and Clayton Mehlbauer, among others.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Higgins said. “I wouldn’t trade this experience or my years at Trinity for anything.”

Perhaps next time, Trinity will experience the glory of a one-run win in the state tournament. Metzinger is already looking forward to his senior season.

“We’ve just got to keep battling,” Metzinger said. “Facing a team like that in the first round is tough. But we will take this experience and let it fuel us as we prepare for next year.”

And maybe then the good-pitching-beats-good-hitting adage will fall on the Rocks’ side of the ledger.

 

 

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