The Franklin County Flyers have shown a remarkable ability to consistently compete with purpose on the baseball diamond this spring.
Wednesday was a case in point as coach Deron McDonald’s Flyers earned their 15th win in 21 games, ripping the rival Western Hills Wolverines 11-1 at FCHS.
It was Franklin County’s second big win over Western HIlls in nine days. The Flyers blanked the Wolverines 10-0 on April 16. Both of these games went just five innings each.
And both meetings were as similar in style as they were in result. On both occasions, Franklin County simply hit the baseball hard and hit it often.
On Wednesday, the Flyers pounded out 11 hits, including four home runs. FCHS catcher and UK signee Zach Arnold homered, along with teammates Conner Brown, Logan Woodside and Logan Crum.
Arnold added a single, Woodside pounded a double and a single, Crum hit two singles and Quenton Brownlee hit two singles.
Seven of the Flyers’ hits came off of Western Hills pitcher Kyle Fisher, who really didn’t pitch badly. Fisher got relief help from Chase Conner and Devon Rowland.
“He (Fisher) made a couple mistakes, but a couple of those balls we hit were good pitches, and we just got a hold of them,” McDonald said. “They were doing a really good job of picking out really good pitches to hit and attacking and driving the baseball. We were a little bit aided with the wind blowing out there early. But we hit the ball solid.
“That’s all you can ask for is to go up there and get a good swing on it, and make solid contact on it,” McDonald added after his team improved to 5-1 in district play.
Western Hills coach Seth Knight saluted the Flyers’ aggressiveness at the plate.
“The middle of their order, starting 1-2-3-4, they’re go,” Knight said of the Flyers. “They get in the box; they’re ready to swing. They attack fast balls. And they are pretty disciplined.
“Our pitchers threw strikes for the most part, and they hit shots,” he added.
Franklin County is hitting those shots with largely the same batting lineup that often struggled just one year ago.
“We went through growing pains last year, and we took it on the chin a bit,” McDonald said. “We used our seniors last year for pitching, and these kids (this season) played in the field and swung the bat last year. Now, we are a year older and a year stronger, and it’s paid off for us.”
The Flyers seized control right out of the box on Wednesday, scoring three runs in the first, two in the second, two in the third and closing it out with a four-spot in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Wolverines scored their lone run on a no-doubt-about-it home run by Jordan Taylor in the fourth inning.
Taylor’s blast came on a rare mistake by Franklin County pitcher Brandon Smither, who tossed a complete-game, four-hitter. Ryan Barrass added a double and single for WHHS, and Dylan Manley had a single.
“He did a good job,” McDonald said of Smither. “He was up in the zone a little bit in the first inning, and in the middle innings he was having trouble with his off speed pitch, but he threw enough of those to get the feel of it, and he was mixing them up. He hung one breaking ball to the wrong kid (Taylor), but we can live with that.”
Knight bemoaned his team’s approach at the plate against Smither.
“He didn’t throw many curve balls all game,” Knight said of Smither. “He pumped fast balls for strikes. In the middle of the game our top two or three guys in the lineup had some good at-bats here and there. They went up there ready to attack, and the other four or five (batters) did not. We’ve worked on that the last couple of days, but it didn’t translate to the game. We’re just not quite aggressive enough. We take too many first-pitch fast balls, and then we’re instantly in the pitchers’ count instead of us dictating what we swing at.”
McDonald said his team is playing with a lot of confidence both offensively and defensively.
“They think, and deservedly so, that whoever they face, they’re going to get up there and get a hit,” McDonald said of his hitters. “And that’s what you want. You want your kids getting in the box expecting to get a hit, and that’s where we’re at right now.
“And they are confident defensively, too,” he added. “Our kids are getting in the right spots, and our arms are 10 times stronger than they were last year, so the throws are coming a whole lot easier to them to get it over to first base. When the balls are hit to them, they expect to field it and get the out.
“Baseball is 90 percent mental, and right now our kids believe they are going to make every play, whether it’s offense, defense, base running or pitching.”
How good are these Flyers? McDonald’s team will get a chance to find out, weather permitting, when they compete in the Louisville Invitational Tournament the next three days at Male High School.
Franklin County takes on Male, the top-ranked team in Kentucky, today at 6. The Flyers then play third-ranked Bowling Green Friday at 9 and finish with sixth-ranked Lafayette Saturday at 4:30.
“We’re pretty excited about the opportunity,” McDonald said. “We will have our hands full this weekend, but it’s weekends like this that make you better and get you ready to play in the 11th Region. We’re ready to take on this challenge and give it our best shot.”
Western Hills hosts Madison Southern today at 5:30 and plays at Powell County on Saturday.