By John Lachmann
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Brossart made its first state baseball tournament appearance in school history on Monday.
But during their inaugural game in the KHSAA championships, the Mustangs looked like a team that annually competes for state titles.
The Mustangs beat Pikeville, 4-2 in an opening-round game at Whitaker Bank Ballpark to advance to the state quarterfinals. Brossart will play Louisville St. Xavier at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
“It’s huge because this is the first time we’ve ever been here and the first ever win here,” senior left-handed starting pitcher Zach Fardo said. “We’re still making memories.”
Fardo did not top 75 mph but he tossed six strong innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run to earn the win, and sophomore righty Conner Verst fired a perfect seventh, fanning the final two batters.
“I didn’t have my good stuff tonight, but I just battled out there,” Fardo said.
Brossart’s defense was nearly flawless, committing only one error in the third inning, and Fardo was able to pitch out of that jam without allowing a run.
“They’ve got a confidence about them that they’ve picked up over the last few weeks, and I don’t think they show any intimidation, no matter who they play,” Brossart coach Ron Verst said.
The Mustangs stranded a runner on third in the first inning and drew three straight two-out walks in the second, but they were unable to convert on either scoring chance.
In the bottom of the second, Fardo recorded a strikeout that would have completed a 1-2-3 inning, but the ball bounced away after the third strike and the Pikeville batter reached.
Junior right fielder Conner Pack followed with a blooper that landed in no-man’s land between the mound and second base, resulting in an infield hit.
The No. 9 hitter, senior designated hitter J.P. Coleman, lined a single up the middle to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
After leaving four runners on base in the first two innings, Brossart finally broke through in the third. Sophomore shortstop Nate Verst led off with a single and stole second, and one out later, junior catcher Tanner Norton hammered an RBI double down the left field line.
The next batter, senior center fielder Trevor Bezold, hit a line drive to center field that hit off the glove of junior center fielder Jacob Burke for a three-base error that give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the third, Pikeville loaded the bases with no outs but was unable to score, largely due to a controversial call. Fardo issued a pair of walks sandwiching an infield error, and he induced a pop up to first base by Burke.
Senior left fielder Reese Ward hit a ground ball to shortstop, and after Nate Verst flipped to senior second baseman Jesse Orth for a force at second, Orth threw to first but was unable to complete the double play.
However, it was ruled that the runner of first slid past second base and interfered with Orth, and the second base umpire called the batter out, ending the inning.
“That was huge,” Ron Verst said. “At that point, bases loaded, nobody out you’re just hoping maybe to give up one run, shut them down and you’ll still be happy with that. But that was a momentum boost for us.”
Fardo did not allow a baserunner in the fourth or fifth innings, and Brossart added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the fifth.
Norton led off the Mustangs’ fifth with a single, and a triple to right field by Bezold extended Brossart’s lead to two.
“I thought it was a pop up to right field and when I was running around first base it kept going,” Bezold said.
Two outs later, Orth singled home Bezold to make it 4-1.
Fardo hit a batter to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and after a passed ball and a double, he recorded a ground out and two shallow fly balls to end the inning.
“He’s battled all year for us and he’s a leader on this team and guys are comfortable when he’s out there, and they work hard for him,” Ron Verst said.
Ron Verst turned the ball over to Conner Verst, who made short work of Pikeville in the seventh for his seventh save of the season.
BROSSART 002-020-0—4 8 1
PIKEVILLE 010-001-0—2 4 2
WP: Fardo (8-5). LP: Maynard (6-3). SV: C. Verst (7). HITTING LEADERS: B—Hahn 2-5; Norton 2-4, 2B; Bezold 3B. P—Burke 2B. RECORDS: Brossart 26-12, Pikeville 27-8.
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