With a 17-10 victory over Whitley County Wednesday evening, the Corbin Redhounds baseball team won their first 13th Region championship title since the 2005 season.
The Hounds, now 24-12 on the year, battled back from a 9-1 deficit to secure their championship win, and will now advance to compete in next week’s KHSAA state tournament in Lexington.
“I’m at a loss for words,” said Corbin Head Coach Cody Philpot after the game. “I’m just so proud. Trust me, the game plan was not get down early like we did. But the guys never panicked. They just had confidence in themselves, and in each other. They knew they had a chance. They knew they were going to score runs.”
“I’m just so excited for them that they get to experience this third region championship in school history. These guys just put their names in the record books at Corbin High School, and that’s a prestigious place to be.”
As happy as the Hounds were at the conclusion of Wednesday’s region tournament finale, they were just as frustrated in the early stages of it. The host Whitley County Colonels wasted no time in taking a commanding lead, going up 5-0 in the top of the first inning thanks to a grand slam by sophomore Jake Prewitt and an RBI single from senior Dylan Wilson. This prompted Coach Philpot to make his first pitching change of the night, bringing on Matthew Creekmore to relieve starter Jaidyn Swanner.
Corbin cut the Colonel lead by one run in the bottom of the first when junior Chase Estep knocked one over the fence on the first pitch to make it 5-1. Whitley quickly made up for that, however, going up 9-1 in the top of the second inning thanks to an RBI single from senior Tyler Shelton and a bases-clearing three-RBI double from Wilson. Coach Philpot opted to make his second pitching change at this point, taking Creekmore off the mound and bringing on junior Christian Gosselin.
The Redhounds could not score any runs in the bottom of the second, and at this point it looked as if Whitley County was destined to hoist the 13th Region championship trophy in 2018. An RBI from Corbin sophomore Cole Hicks made it 9-2 in the bottom of the third inning, however, and after the Colonels were unable to add to their lead in the top of the fourth they suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of a momentum swing when two runs were walked in by Wilson, junior Austin Reynolds knocked in another with an RBI single and sophomore Cam Allen brought in three more with a bases-clearing RBI double to make it 9-8, still in favor of Whitley County.
Colonels Head Coach Jeremy Shope opted to bring sophomore Chase Harlan onto the mound in relief of Wilson, but after the Hounds tied the game up at 9-9 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Shope elected to give the ball to junior slugger Caleb Rains, who was able to finish out the inning for Whitley, but not before Corbin’s Noah Taylor crossed home plate to give his team the 10-9 lead.
With all of the momentum on their side, the Redhounds capitalized in the sixth inning. RBI hits from Estep, Allen, Ben Phillips and Matty Hart accounted for seven runs to put Corbin in the driver’s seat, 17-9. Whitley was able to load the bases in the top of the seventh, leading to Coach Philpot taking Gosselin off the mound in order to let Allen finish out the game, but one run was all that the despondent Colonels could muster, resulting in a 17-10 final decision.
After the roller coaster contest, Matty Hart said, “Needless to say, we just won a 13th Region championship, so that is always a great feeling. You have to give the credit to this team. They played their hearts out, no matter what. Coming from a 9-1 deficit, it takes a whole lot of heart to put up the runs and find the fight to go out and try to win the game despite the odds being not in your favor. It feels great to know that we have a team that’s willing to fight, though.”
Estep said, “This brought out the best in us. It didn’t start out how we planned, but it was all positivity in the dugout. Nobody was ready to go home. Nobody was ready to throw in the towel, and it just shows you the heart and the passion that we have to play the game of baseball.”
Finally, Gosselin added, “This feels great. They talk about the ’87 and the ’05 teams, but now they’re going to have to start talking about the ’18 team. We just have to be on our A-game at state. It’ll be tough, but if we play well together I think we’ll be fine.”
As for who Corbin will face in their first round matchup at state, that would be the Region 14 champion Hazard Bulldogs (24-9). Hazard defeated Perry County Central 9-1 Wednesday to earn their trip to the 2018 state tourney, and they boast shutout victories over 13th Region opponents Williamsburg and North Laurel on the year. Their game against the Hounds is scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington.
Be sure to look inside the Wednesday, June 6 print edition of the News Journal for much more on the upcoming KHSAA state baseball championship tournament.
2018 All-Region tournament team members from Corbin: Cam Allen, Ben Phillips, Cole Hicks and Chase Estep
2018 All-Region tournament team members from Whitley Co (25-12 final record): Dylan Wilson, Jake Prewitt and Tyler Shelton