Whitesburg KY

Cougars win region, will face Johnson Central

The Letcher County Central Cougars overcame the tragic death of a teammate’s mother last week to capture the championship of the 14th Region Baseball Tournament.

Trailing Leslie County by a score of 7-6 in the bottom of the third inning, the Cougars (24-12) scored three runs in the top of the fourth and held on for a 9-7 win and the right to advance to the Semi-State Tournament in Pikeville, where they will begin a best-of-three series tonight (Wednesday) against Johnson Central (25-12).

The Golden Eagles, who won the 15th Region by defeating Lawrence County, own a 10-6 regular season win over Letcher Central in the only game between the two this year. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 at the Hambley Complex at Pikeville College.

Jon Adams started Letcher Central’s comeback in fourth when he hit a double with one man out. After Jonathan Tucker was intentionally walked and Colton Cook was hit-by-a-pitch to load the bases, Mike Hogg drew walk which scored Jon Adams and tied the game. Jeramy Johnson followed with an RBI single to left field to score Tucker and Cook.

The victory marked a triumphant end to a week that began with the unexpected passing of the mother of senior leader Dustin Adams. Adams was absent for the team’s wins over Perry Central and Breathitt County, but returned for the championship game.

Commenting on the courage shown by Adams, Cougars coach Bryan Dean said, “we’ve decided as a team and group of coaches to dedicate the region crown and the rest of our season to Dustin Adams.”

Letcher Central drew first blood in the championship game, mustering six runs in the second inning. The scoring began after Jeramy Johnson led off with a single and Brady Collins hit a ground-rule double. Collins scored when Chase Adams hit an RBI single to right. With the bases left loaded after walks to McKenzie Smith Jon Adams, tournament MVP Tucker cleared the deck with a double to the gap in right-center. After Colton Cook walked and reached second on a wild pitch, Hogg was able to get him home by hitting a single to left field.

Leslie County answered the Cougar onslaught, taking the lead in the third inning after scoring seven runs.

The victory over Leslie County also came as a relief to Coach Dean, who had lost in regional tournament finals in four of his eight seasons as head coach.

“I feel like the monkey is off my back now,” laughed Dean, who lost previous regional finals while coaching at Powell County and Breathitt County. Dean, a 1990 graduate of Owsley County High School and college pitcher for EKU, Alice Lloyd College, and Lee’s College, credits the championship to the unity displayed by his ballplayers over the past month.

“We really came together over the past three weeks,” he said. “Our seniors really stepped up and carried us.”

The Cougar lineup was overhauled recently and few players were in the same position as they were at the beginning of the season.

“When you average 4.5 or 5 errors a game you have to try something new,” said Dean. “We jumbled the lineup and it worked. We’re going to stick with what’s working.”

If Letcher Central can beat Johnson Central, the Cougars will advance to the State Tournament at the home of the Lexington Legends, Applebee’s Park.

“This was a great region title for our entire athletic program,” said Letcher Central athletics director Arthur “Ozz” Jackson. “We’ve now put baseball on the map in Letcher County. We are among the top teams in our region. I can’t wait to prove we’re among the top teams in the state.”

Philip Adams and B.R. Maggard contributed to this story.

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