Greenup County’s pursuit of perfection is over, but not its pursuit of state title

May 16, 2016 FieldsColumn

BY MIKE FIELDS

Greenup County’s hopes of becoming Kentucky’s first undefeated state baseball champion in 34 years are dead, but the Musketeers’ hopes of winning the state title are still very much alive.

Greenup County suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, falling to East Jessamine 2-1 in the Fayette County Invitational Tournament. Coach Greg Logan said his players were “heartbroken” and “crushed” when their 33-game winning streak – the third longest in state history – came to an end.

Greenup County Coach Greg Logan

Greenup County Coach Greg Logan

“I told them that the sun will come up tomorrow and that our main goal (winning the state championship) has not changed,” Logan said. “We hit a pot hole. This is not going to train-wreck us. It’s just a minor setback. We’ll keep it on the tracks and start another winning streak.”

The Musketeers went into the FCIT ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 11 in the nation (according to USA Today). They beat host Lafayette 4-1 Friday night and Madison Central 3-2 Saturday afternoon before losing to East Jessamine.

“If we were going to pick a game to lose, that was the one,” Logan said. “We proved we could beat Lafayette, and we proved we could beat Madison Central.”

Madison Central had special motivation in trying to spoil Greenup County’s unbeaten season. The Indians won the state title in 1982 with a 40-0 record. While state baseball history is sketchy, Madison Central is believed to be the only undefeated state baseball champ in the last 63 years. It won its first four games in 1983 to stretch its state-record winning streak to 44.

Greenup County could have matched that 44 in a row if it had beaten East Jessamine, won its regular-season finale against Boyd County, and gone undefeated in the post-season.

But Logan said he told his players they “don’t have to be sad or cry about it. People will forget about the loss real quick if we win the title. Every team in the state would like to be sitting where we are.”

Brody Shoupe

Brody Shoupe

Brody Shoupe, the Musketeers’ senior catcher who has signed with Morehead State, was already taking the long view after Friday night’s win over Lafayette.

“These games are kind of our prep games,” he said. “The regular season is all just kind of practice. The post-season is what we really strive for.”

This Greenup County team is accustomed to winning. The Musketeers reached the state semifinals last season without a senior on their roster. They’ve won 48 of their last 50 games over the last two years.

They’ve done it with solid pitching, solid defense and potent bats up and down the lineup.

Shoupe, senior Jared Hunt, junior Christian Wireman and switch-hitting sophomore Gage Hughes have helped Greenup County to a .370 team batting average this spring.

Tristan Downing

Tristan Downing

Juniors Tristan Downing and Jaxon Keeton, seniors Ethan Coldiron and Zach Hayden are the mainstays of the pitching staff.

Shoupe knew this year’s team was special when it beat Spring Valley, W.Va., 9-8 for its 21st consecutive victory.

“They put up 7 runs on us in the first inning, and in the back of my mind I was thinking, hmmmm, this might be a long night. But we kept scratching, getting a few runs here and there, and then Christian Wireman hit a three-run bomb. Winning like that game really glued our team together.”

Even though Greenup County’s pursuit of a perfect season is over, Logan wants his players to appreciate what they’ve done. Only two other teams in state history have put together longer winning streaks. Madison Central’s 44 in a row in 1982-83, and Harrison County’s 37 in a row in 1997-98. (Harrison County won its last 34 games on its way to the 1997 title and finished 40-1. It won its first three games the following season.)

Former Madison Central coach Don Richardson, who guided the Indians to their undefeated state title, said “all records were made to be broken. Some day, somebody will come along, but that one will be a hard one to break.

“Going undefeated in baseball is just so tough. One pitcher having one bad day, or one bad hop on a country field can get you beat. There’s 100 little things that can happen.”

Mac Whitaker, in his 39th season at Harrison County, thinks going unbeaten in baseball is the toughest challenge in high school sports.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “There are so many variables. One day, one bad game, or there’s a pitcher on the other team you can’t do anything with.”

Whitaker’s ’97 Thorobreds went 37-0 against Kentucky competition. Their only loss was to Miami Senior in a spring break tournament in South Carolina.

Greenup County didn’t take the easy road on its long winning streak. It beat teams from six states while posting 33 consecutive victories before East Jessamine senior pitcher Chase Wozniak quieted the Musketeers’ bats with a complete-game performance. East Jessamine improved its record to 13-15 with the upset.

“That’s baseball,” Logan said. “When you’re No. 1 and undefeated, everybody wants to knock you off.

“Not taking anything away from basketball or softball, but I think it’s toughest to go undefeated in baseball. No question about it.”