The Western Hills Wolverines took the Frankfort High Panthers for granted and nearly paid with their season Tuesday night in the 41st District baseball tournament semifinals at Western Hills.
The Wolverines rode outstanding pitching from seniors Kyle Stevens (six innings) and Kyle Fisher (one inning), along with RBIs from Jesse Howard in the sixth and Thomas Bennett in the seventh to a 2-1 win over the Panthers.
Western Hills moved into tonight’s 6 p.m. championship game at 15-12, while Frankfort saw a promising season end at 11-14.
The Wolverines play Franklin County for the district title, with both teams moving on to next week’s 11th Region Tournament, also at Western Hills.
Franklin County’s Flyers edged Woodford County, 4-3, in the second game Tuesday night.
Western Hills had beaten Frankfort easily on two occasions in the regular season — 12-2 on April 22 and 9-2 on May 2 — so the Wolverines did not expect trouble on Tuesday.
“I think we thought we had the game won from the beginning,” said Bennett, whose two-out, seventh-inning double scored Tyler Anglin with the winning run. “We didn’t come ready to play.”
The Wolverines were not counting on an outstanding performance by Frankfort High junior pitcher Jeffrey Quire, who threw a complete-game, five-hitter.
“I would say that was the best game I ever pitched in my life,” said Quire. “My split finger was on. My fastball was on.”
And when FHS tallied a fifth-inning run on two-out singles from Charles Pearl and Dre Scott, and a Western Hills error on a ball hit by Conner Kelley, the Wolverines felt the pressure, down 1-0.
“About the fifth inning, I got a little nervous,” Bennett said. “Everybody got a little nervous. Everybody talked about needing to come out and hit the ball.”
Western Hills eased some of the pressure in the sixth inning when Seth Roush earned a one-out walk, and ended up scoring on a two-out double to right center by Howard, tying the game at 1-1.
“I could breathe,” Stevens said of that sequence. “It was crazy.”
“Getting that run to tie it up was a relief for me and all our coaches and players,” said WHHS assistant coach Jeff Howard. “Then we could settle down, and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
That set up the seventh-inning heroics for the Wolverines.
Anglin opened that frame with a single to left, and stole second.
Fisher walked, and then — with two outs — Bennett drove a ball up the middle that scored Anglin.
Bennett said he expected a fastball from Quire, and he got it.
“He (Quire) was holding his split finger in his glove, and when I saw him move his glove, I knew the split finger was not coming,” said Bennett, who had two of the Wolverines’ five hits. “I knew a fastball was coming. That helped a lot.”
The Panthers mustered only three hits off of Stevens in six innings, and Fisher pitched a perfect seventh for the winners, striking out two of the batters he faced.
“He started off a little rough, but he battled back,” Jeff Howard said of Stevens. “But any time you have nine strikeouts and one walk, you’ve had a good night.”
Frankfort coach Jerrad Robin said he was proud of his Panthers.
“I’m really, really proud of these guys, coming from where we started to ending the season like this,” Robin said. “Obviously I would rather we won the game, but I’m very proud of these guys.”
To see more photos from this game, click here.