By John Stepp For The Times Tribune
NORTH LAUREL — With a 6-3 win over the Clay County Tigers, the North Laurel Jaguars became back-to-back 49th District Champions on Monday night.
The Jaguars were led by the bat of senior standout Marcus Carson who went 3-4 on the night with two runs scored and a pair of stolen bases. Carson also came on in relief in the sixth inning and closed out the game.
North Laurel jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. Carson and Ethan Maxey both reached based on singles, and were brought home on an RBI triple by sophomore Zach Hurley. Hurley later scored on a single by sophomore Logan Mallory to give the Jaguars a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers answered in the bottom of the inning. Hurley walked the first two Clay County batters, both of whom scored on a single by sophomore Dustin Gross. Hurley battled back to retire the next three batters and maintain a 3-2 lead for the Jaguars.
“We were able to get some runs early and that was big for us. But we made plays when we needed to,” said North Laurel Coach Darren McWhorter. “When it’s muggy and sticky out here the ball doesn’t shoot out there like it normally does. (Zach) was having a hard time mechanically in the first inning.”
The Jaguars continued their heavy hitting in the second inning as Carson and 8th grader Wes Griebel each reached base on singles to open the inning. A sacrifice fly by Maxey scored Carson and Griebel later scored on an error to give North Laurel a 5-2 lead after two.
Both teams were scoreless in the third and fourth innings, until North Laurel got on the board again in the top of the fifth. A single by sophomore Austin Rudder brought home Hurley to round out the scoring for the Jaguars and give them a 6-3 lead.
Clay County looked to be clawing back in the bottom of the sixth. Gross reached base safely with a walk to open the inning and looked to have a chance to score on a double by sophomore Dylan Garrison. Carson got the ball in center and threw Gross out at home, followed by Garrison being thrown out at second. Hurley struck out the next Tigers’ batter to end the inning and allow the Jaguars to come away unscathed.
“I tell you, we made plays. We just made plays this last little bit. We got lucky and got out of some jams with a couple double plays. There were quite a few that helped us get out of a big jam where they could have scored some more runs,” said McWhorter. “This wouldn’t have been 6-3, it would have been a lot closer than that. We’d been fighting tooth and nail to get out of here.”
The Tigers would add another run in the bottom of the seventh, but Carson caught Nathan Huff not looking to strike him out for the final out of the game, and give the Jaguars a 6-3 win.
Hurley got the win on the mound, while also batting 2-3, knocking in two and scoring two runs. The Jaguars had 10 hits collectively on the night.