By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
CORBIN — A game that was expected to be a shootout turned into a one-sided affair early and stayed that way.
The Knox County 12-year-old All Stars pounded out nine hits, including a pair of home runs by Thomas Jackson and Tucker Holland, en route to a 6-0 win over North Laurel in the opening game of the District 4 All Star Tournament at Corbin’s Rotary Park.
Knox County got on the scoreboard early and never looked back, handing North Laurel its first loss of the All-Star season as they swept through the Area 2 Tournament last week.
After the win, Knox County coach Scott Payne said much like everyone else, he expected a battle against North Laurel, but he gladly took the shutout win.
“Our pitching was strong again and our defense was solid as well,” Payne said. “Those really are our two strong suits and when we play well in those two areas, that’s when we are at our best.
“If we can get five or six runs a game, I’m tickled with that kind of production,” he added. “I told my kids before the game that if they can give me six runs, we’ll win the game. Even though they came late, we got them, as well as the win.”
On the other end of the spectrum, North Laurel head coach Greg Binder talked about his team’s ability to hang tough, but said he eventually started thinking strategically about the next round as far as his pitching staff.
“They hit the ball off of Noah (Smith) a lot better than I expected them to and we watched a lot of balls go by at the plate and didn’t put it in play,” Binder said. “We pulled Noah early because we started thinking about the next game, but he pitched well other than the home run.
“I really felt good that we were going to beat Knox County in the past, but unfortunately that didn’t happen,” he added. “We talked to our kids about the possibility of this scenario, so they know what we’re up against. We’re not giving up by any means and we just have to take it one game at a time from this point on.”
Knox County took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jaylen Adams doubled to right field and came around to score on an RBI single by Trey Owens. Jackson made the score 3-0 in the top of the second when he drove a 2-1 pitch over the center field fence.
All was quiet until the top of the sixth when Holland gave Knox County some breathing room on a mammoth two-run home run that cleared the row of trees in left field and landed across the street an estimated 240 feet from home plate. The homer made the score 5-0, but Knox County added another run to extend the lead to 6-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Holland came on in relief in the sixth and after giving up a leadoff single, shut North Laurel down to end the game.
Knox County will face the winner of the game between Wayne County and Hazard/Perry County, while North Laurel awaits the loser of tonight’s game between Harlan County and Pulaski County.