By Les Dixon/Sports Editor
NORTH LAUREL — North Laurel coach Jon Sizemore was concerned coming into his team’s showdown with South Hardin in the winner’s bracket final of the Minor League State Tournament on Thursday.
His squad has dominated each opponent they have faced since All-Star play began two weeks ago, and he was worried what would happen once his team faced-off against a team that was just as good.
That happened Thursday — South Hardin jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and managed to hold on to advance to the championship game Saturday, winning 6-5.
“What I was concerned about — I knew they were going to have a competitive game. They haven’t seen that,” Sizemore said. “That’s what I was worried about. How we were going to react to it, and it took us about three or four innings before we got ready to react to playing that game.
“We made a good comeback, but it just wasn’t enough,” he added. “It was too late.”
The loss sends North Laurel to the loser’s bracket final today at 8 p.m. against either Morgan County or North Oldham.
After falling behind 2-0, North Laurel managed to cut its deficit to 2-1 after Maddie Dagley reached base and was driven in by Kamrie Collier’s run-scoring double.
South Hardin answered with three more runs in the top of the fourth inning, extending its lead to 5-1, but North Laurel wouldn’t fold.
Sizemore’s squad rallied in the bottom of the inning and scored three runs, as Collier reached base with a hit and Haven Houston followed by getting on thanks to an error.
Maylee Philpot made the score, 5-3, after a two-run double and later scored on a fielder’s choice by Tia Gambrel, as North Laurel cut its deficit to 5-4.
Both teams failed to score in the fifth inning, but South Hardin managed to score a run in the top of the sixth inning, giving it a 6-4 edge, and it also turned out to be a huge run, according to Sizemore.
“That was a big run,” he said. “Going into the last inning down by one, you get your first lead-off batter on, you’re looking to get that run, but when you get down two, it changes your whole appearance. You can’t bunt them over and you can’t try to move them just to get that tie. You’ve got to start playing a totally different strategy.”
North Laurel took advantage of three errors in the bottom of the sixth inning and loaded the bases with Houston scoring on a pass ball, making the score, 6-5.
Sizemore’s squad had a chance to tie or win the game with runners on second and third with two outs, but a strikeout ended the game while resulting in North Laurel’s first loss of the post-season.
“I felt like we had a chance to win because I know we are a good hitting team,” Sizemore said when asked about his team’s chances coming into the bottom of the sixth inning. “When we need to, we can hit the ball. I feel confident with our bats at any time we can put runs on the board.”