By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
PRESTONSBURG — Knox County 11-year-old coach Scott Payne was hoping to save ace pitcher Tucker Holland for today's 11-year-old state championship game, but after staring at a 6-2 deficit to North Oldham in the second inning of Thursday's state semifinal game, Payne decided to bring Holland in, and it turned out to be the right decision.
Holland silenced North Oldham's bats for the game's final four innings, as Knox County rallied to score 10 unanswered runs to advance to its second straight state title game today at 6:30 p.m. by defeating their counterparts, 12-6.
"We managed to battle back and win," a relieved Payne said. "This was a test tonight and we were able to win.
"We came in with the plan to hold Tucker for the state championship game, but we got into some trouble," he added. "It was the same scenario as last year."
Despite seeing his team fall behind four runs, Payne said he wasn't worried.
"I knew if we kept hitting the ball we would be fine," he said. "I just told our kids to keep hitting the ball and we would get back in the game."
The Knox County players listened to their coach and put together a furious rally.
Trey Owens connected with a two-run triple while Holland's three-run homer gave his team a commanding 12-6 lead.
"That gave us the cushion we needed," Payne said. "I was really proud of our kids tonight."
Now Knox County will get a chance to erase last year's memory of losing in the state title game.
"We are taking a different approach," Payne admitted. "Last year we were feeling like it was just an honor being there. I think we felt the pressure.
"This year it's different because we are looser and having fun," he added. "That's the best approach to take. We are focused and ready to go. If we hit the baseball I really like our chances to win (the state championship)."
Sports Editor's note — Knox County's opponent for the state championship game was not known by deadline.
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
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