BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS Jaeden Layne and Lewis County haven’t exactly hit it off this season.
The Russell pitcher has been stingy when it comes to doling out base hits to the Lions. After tossing a no-hitter against Lewis County in their last encounter, the junior hurled another complete- game gem against the Lions on Monday night.
This time around, he allowed just one hit to earn Russell a region tournament berth with a 2-0 win over Lewis County in the opening round of the 63rd District Tournament.
“I really don’t know what it is,” Layne said a grin. “I just kind of felt it today. I have those days every once in a while.”
Layne threw 13 strikeouts and allowed just two walks. In an elimination game, Russell coach Tim Rice didn’t have a second thought whom he wanted to take the mound.
“There was never a doubt,” Rice said. “(Lewis County’s Seth) Wright is pretty good and if we took them lightly, they have as good a chance as anybody to win.”
Rice said Layne has been difficult for opposing batters all season when he is on his game. “When he is throwing well and keeping the ball down, he is tough to hit anyways,” Rice said. “That is a scrappy (Lewis County) team over there and I have to tip my cap to them.
They battled every inning tonight. I’m just happy that we came out on top and Jaeden Layne was able to throw that complete-game shutout.”
Layne was only one half of the pitcher’s duel. Wright struck out 11 and gave up five hits.
Lewis County coach Walt Taylor said his team has yet to figure Layne out.
“He owns us,” Taylor said.
“He really does. He no-hit us once then one-hits us again.
The kids battled and they put their bats out there. We went down seven or eight times looking against him the first time we faced him. Tonight, we cut that down. We were working hard on that, but he is just a fantastic pitcher.
“Seth did a great job tonight. He kept the meat of Russell’s lineup from hurting us. It was a good pitchers’ duel.”
Russell (22-13) got a tally on the board early. Kenneth Gomez reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and went to third on Landon Brewer’s single. He scored on a passed ball.
The Red Devils scored again in the third on a Brewer RBI single.
Brewer was 2 for 2. Troy Gillum reached base safely in all three of his plate appearances from the leadoff spot and scored a run.
“We struck out in some key situations,” Rice said. “We didn’t execute tonight. 4-5-6 (hitters) really didn’t do a whole lot tonight. Those are guys that we have relied on all year and I have full confidence that in tomorrow night’s game, they have the ability to go 4 for 4 at the plate. We just didn’t execute like we should have tonight. We didn’t get the key hits like we have been getting all year.”
Lewis County (6-24) mounted a threat in the fourth frame. Wright and Austin Collins drew walks. After a balk placed them at second and third, Layne promptly struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Layne said the Red Devils remembered last year, when the Lions ended their season in the first round of the district tournament. They wanted to make sure it wasn’t a repeat performance.
“I think that played a huge part in how we played tonight,” Layne said. “We saw Greenup County get beat and we didn’t want that to be us this year.”
Added Rice: “A lot of the seniors had a bad taste in their mouth from last season as juniors. A lot of them were everyday guys last year. To walk off that field last year and not go to the region, they did not want that to happen this year.
Now we have a chance to win a district title.”
Russell will meet Raceland, an 8-2 winner over Greenup County, in the district championship tonight at 6 p.m.
LEWISCO. 000 000 0—010 RUSSELL 101 000 x—2 5 1
Wright, O’Keefe (6) and Yates; Layne and Brinkman. W—Layne. L—Wright. 2B—Hensley (R).