Hitting has been a strength for Franklin County’s baseball team all season, but when the Flyers’ bats went silent it was time for small ball.
Stymied by Frankfort High pitcher A.J. Bramble for four innings, FCHS came up with eight runs in the fifth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie and going on to win 9-1 Tuesday in the first round of the 41st District Tournament at Franklin County.
The Flyers play Woodford County today at 6:30 p.m. for the district championship.
“They bunted their way past us,” FHS coach Anthony Russell said. “They did what they had to do.”
Both teams scored a run in the first inning. The Panthers’ run came on a home run by Collin Harris. That hit proved to be the only one FHS had in the game as Brandon Smither pitched a one-hit, one-run complete game for the Flyers.
FCHS tied the game in the bottom of the first when Zach Arnold was hit by a pitch and scored on a double by Conner Brown.
The score remained 1-1 until the fifth, with Smither and Bramble cruising through the lineups.
“We’ve been hitting well all year long,” FCHS coach Deron McDonald said, “but today we didn’t have any energy on offense. We had good pitching, and we played good defense.
“Their pitcher did a good job of mixing it up and keeping us off balance, and we weren’t very aggressive with the bats,” he added. “We got a few hits strung together in the fifth inning, and we were able to keep it going.”
The hitting started in the fifth with Quenton Brownlee getting on base with an infield single. David Current followed with a triple, scoring Brownlee. Nick Cumpston hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Current.
Arnold singled, and bunt singles by Brown and Logan Crum loaded the bases. Eric Meyer reached on an error to score a run and keep the bases loaded, and Logan Woodside singled to score another run.
Nick Redmon reached on an error, allowing another run to come home, and a base hit by Brownlee scored two more runs. Current brought a run home with a sacrifice fly, and another run scored on a wild pitch.
“A.J. was spotting his pitches,” Russell said. “That was probably the best game he’s had all year. He kept them off balance. They did what they had to do – they bunted and we didn’t field the bunt.
“Going into the bottom of the fifth inning, against one of the best teams in the region, we were tied 1-1.”
Smither improved to 9-1 on the season with the win.
“Brandon gave up one hit, a home run to Harris,” McDonald said. “They had a couple of other balls that were hard hit but right to our defense, and we made plays.
“He did a very good job of mixing up speeds, mixing up pitches. Thank goodness he came ready to play because the rest of us weren’t.”
“Give credit to the Flyers,” Russell said. “Smither pitched a heck of a game, just one hit and one run.”
Brown hit a double and single for the Flyers, Crum and Brownlee both singled twice, Current hit a triple, and Meyer, Arnold, Woodside and Nick Cumpston each had a base hit.
Bramble pitched 4 1/3 innings, and Jeffrey Quire finished the game in relief.
The Panthers, who finish the year at 13-18, will lose four seniors off this year’s team – Bramble, Dennis Martin, Jordan Dean and Zach Perry. Bramble was the only senior to play Tuesday, and the other three were out with injuries.
“I want to congratulate Franklin County and wish the best to all the teams left,” Russell said, “and I want to wish all our seniors well. They’ve been a great group of seniors. We’ll be better and ready next year.”