By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
CORBIN — Scott Payne’s Knox County Little League All-Stars had high hopes of finishing off Hazard/Perry Sunday to advance to the State Tournament, but those plans have been put on hold.
Hazard/Perry scored four runs in the first inning and managed to hold on to force a second District 4 championship game after upending Knox County, 5-4.
The two teams will square-off today at 7 p.m. to see who will advance to the Little League State Tournament in Prestonsburg.
“It was a tough loss for us,” Knox County coach Scott Payne said. “We got to suck it up and come back tomorrow and play another game. Momentum has shifted their way now. We’re going to see what our team is made of.”
Knox County scored two runs in the top of the first inning, but the 2-0 lead didn’t last long with Hazard/Perry scoring four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Hazard/Perry’s lead grew to 5-2 after the second inning before seeing Knox County begin chipping away at its three-run deficit.
Payne’s squad plated a run in the fourth inning, as Kirkland Bryant scored on a wild pitch to make the score, 5-3.
Knox County got even closer in the top of the fifth inning thanks to a run-scoring single by Peyton Payne that scored Trey Owens, cutting his team’s deficit to 5-4.
Knox County loaded the bases and looked to be ready to break the game open but a grounder by Cole Hicks led to Bryant getting thrown out at second base in a close play that ended the inning and scoring threat.
“That was huge for us at that time because they had to switch pitchers, too, just like us,” Payne said of the close call at second. “It could have been one of those deals that could have opened the inning right up for us. I thought he missed it — I hope he made the right call, but that’s baseball.”
Knox County had one final chance to tie or take the lead in the game during the sixth inning after seeing Jaylen Adams reach base with a single, but Hazard/Perry closed the game with a strikeout.
“We still have Caleb (Powers) and Peyton and we still have Thomas Jackson (left to pitch),” Payne said. “So we’re fine on pitching. It’s just going to come down to us hitting the baseball. They’re going to throw their big lefty tomorrow and we’re going to have to come out and hit him.”