TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
When Knox County 11-12-year-old All-Star coach Scott Payne is asked about the secret of his team’s success during the Area 2, District 4 and state tournaments, he’s quick to point out his deep pitching staff and solid defensive play.
And the numbers don’t lie.
In 11 All-Star games this season, Knox County’s pitchers have allowed only 14 runs while giving up only 34 hits in 62 innings of work and 19 walks. The pitchers have also combined to strike out 125 batters while compiling an impressive 1.35 ERA.
No wonder they are 10-1 entering Saturday’s game against Indiana’s Hagerstown All-Stars during the Great Kales Regional Tournament.
“Our pitching has been solid,” Payne said. “We are just so deep, that we are able to use our pitchers in many ways. We don’t have a single lefty on our staff and that’s really odd, but we did have one that was a lefty, we’d be really dangerous.”
Knox County might not have a left-handed pitcher, but the seven hurlers who have stepped on the mound during All-Star play have turned in impressive numbers.
Thomas Jackson leads the way with a 3-0 record.
He has tossed the most innings (17) out of all the pitchers, and leads the team with 35 strikeouts. His 0.71 ERA ranks second on the team and he’s allowed only two earned runs and given up only 10 hits while walking only seven batters.
“Thomas is a very good pitcher for us,” Payne said. “He has a fastball and a curveball that he throws.”
With Jackson getting a lot of starts, right-handed hurler Tucker Holland has turned out to be Knox County’s closer many times during the summer. Holland has two saves and he’s also garnered a 2-0 record while tossing 14 and 2/3 of an inning.
“I know a lot of people probably question me for that, but like I said, when he gets in, he gets the job done,” Payne said of putting Holland in the game during the mid-innings. “The momentum swung when we put him in against North Oldham. People also don’t realize the longer period he throws, the more he can wear down.”
He’s known for his hitting, but he’s just as good on the mound.
“He throws in the low 70s and he’s just hard to hit,” Payne said. “We saw it in the North Oldham game when we brought him in after they hit the (three-run) home run. He comes in and strikes out the kid and we’ve got the momentum back. That’s just what he does.”
Holland has also struck out 30 batters, only walked three batters while giving up only one earned run, which is why his ERA is a team-best 0.41 ERA.
Both Mitchel Buchanan and Cole Hicks have saves on the season and have combined to pitch 3 and 2/3 innings while striking out five batters.
“Mitchel is our junk ball pitcher,” Payne said. “He can come at you in many ways. He’s got a nice side-arm curve and Cole can throw a fastball and curve ball.”
Peyton Payne leads Knox County with three saves and he’s also 1-0 during the summer. He’s struck out 25 batters in 11 innings of work and has a 1.09 ERA while giving up only two earned runs and nine hits.
“Peyton has a cutter, fastball and curve ball,” Payne said.
Caleb Powers is 2-0 and has pitched 15 and 1/3 of an inning while garnering a 3.13 ERA while striking out 30 batters and Bailey Lundy has tossed 1/3 of an inning for Knox County.
“This group is very confident in themselves,” Payne said. “They aren’t in a cocky matter, but they do believe in themselves. They have been in bad situations before and lost 8-0 games before, but they learn from those games and continue to get better. I believe in this group of guys and they have shown what they are capable of doing.”