However, the Hilltoppers proved all the doubters wrong on Friday night at the Hawk’s Nest with an improbable 8-7 win in eight wild innings over Hardin Valley to advance to their second consecutive state tournament.
A three-base throwing error in the top of the eighth inning by Hardin Valley allowed Alex Elmore to score from first to give Science Hill the lead for good and for the third time on the evening.
“I don’t even know what to call that play, but all I know is that it was a miracle play,” Science Hill head coach Ryan Edwards said.
“Honestly, when the ball went past second base, I thought I was going home no matter where the ball went. We had to get the game over with,” Elmore said.
Drew Honeycutt then finished the job for Science Hill, getting Hardin Valley to go down in order in the home half.
“What a game. Hardin Valley can swing the bats and our pitchers stayed tough all game,” Edwards said. “Drew Honeycutt, holy cow, what a great effort by him to get those final outs. I told him just to trust me and trust his stuff. I told him if we win, we win. If we lose, we lose, but we’re going to take chances and he did everything he could to stay within himself. He left it all out there.”
CHASING THE FLAMETHROWER
Hardin Valley starting pitcher Lukas Cook came in with a touted resume of throwing hard and in the high 80s, but the ’Toppers quickly ran him off the mound after only two-thirds of an inning and three earned runs.
Landon Slemp got things started in the first inning as the second batter, drawing a walk and then Cook hit the next batter Matthew Levi to give Science Hill a runner in scoring position with just one out.
The ’Toppers capitalized two batters later when Jackson Hill smoked a ball to deep left field that plated two runs.
Science Hill seized a 3-0 lead when Ben Edwards drew a bases loaded walk that scored Cade McCoy.
“Our approaches early on were great,” Edwards said. “We were sitting on anything out over the plate and we hit some line drives, took some walks and knocked him out.”
HAWKS STRIKE BACK
Trailing 4-0, Hardin Valley scored four unanswered runs in the bottom of the second and third.
Two huge throwing errors by Science hill led to the unearned pair of runs in the bottom of the third and suddenly it was a different ball game.
The first of Science Hill’s big pitching moments came when Garrett Gleason worked himself into a bases loaded jam with no outs, but got out of it unscathed by getting a strikeout, a pop out and a grounder.
Hardin Valley left 10 runners on and was 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
HYATT COMES UP BIG
Conner Hyatt picked a great time to have his first varsity home run in the top of the fourth on the first pitch he saw. It came with two runners on and Science Hill jumped back ahead, 7-4.
Hardin Valley would not go away quietly as the Hawks hung three runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth with four walks, a double that was hit hard to deep left field by Cook and a balk by Honeycutt. Again, it was a new ball game.
Even though Honeycutt was rattled to start off coming in during the middle of the sixth inning, he retired the final six batters he faced, the biggest of whom was Archer Wong-Shasteen — the eight-hole hitter — who struck out swinging to end the sixth with the bases loaded after getting ahead 3-0.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome that was,” Edwards said.