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Someone wanting to buy a hot dog and soft drink could have forgiven the delay in service at the Anderson County baseball concession stand Thursday night.
James Brown, one of the workers, had better things to do as Anderson County took the field for one final inning against Spencer County. Anderson had scored 15 runs over the third and fourth innings and led 18-0 over its 30th District rival, but Brown's son, Jacob, had 3 outs to go for a no-hitter.
"I was trying to watch," Brown, the father, said with a big smile. "I knew he had a chance."
Unfortunately for the Browns, Spencer County's Alex Sorrells, who had not been in the starting lineup, smacked a clean single up the middle to break up what could have been a history making performance from Brown in only his third varsity start.
The junior left-hander eventually gave up 3 hits but went the distance in an 18-2 Bearcat win. Brown struck out 7 but showed his inexperience in different ways.
"Some of us were talking in the dugout that we wondered if he realized what was going on," Anderson head coach L.W. Barnes said. "He's still learning a lot about becoming a pitcher."
Brown appeared loose throughout the game, helping himself with 2 doubles and 3 rbi, but his teammates appeared to honor the ancient baseball superstition of not talking about a gem while it is in progress. In the bottom of the fourth, as the Bearcats were putting a 7-spot on the scoreboard, Brown calmly sat alone in the dugout for a good portion of the inning.
Sorrells, in his only plate appearance of the game, drove Brown's offering cleanly over the second base bag. Center fielder Ryan Pike, who had ironically pitched Anderson's last no-hitter, a perfect game against Harrodsburg in 2006, fielded the ball. "I was just thinking, 'There goes his no-no,'" said Pike, who had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with his first career grand slam.
"That shows why it is so difficult," said Anderson pitching coach Chris Copenhaver. "Perfect games and no-hitters just don't happen very often."
It was Copenhaver's second-inning trip to the mound that got Brown settled. After twice walking the leadoff hitter, Brown uncorked a wild pickoff attempt that sent Spencer's Jamison Richardson to second base.
"He got on me pretty good," Brown said with a sheepish grin. "He told me to worry about the batter. We were up 6-0 (actually 3-0) at the time, and he told me to just throw strikes."
After Jeremy Turpin went deep in the hole at short to rob Johnny Thacker of a hit, Brown recovered to strike out the next 2 hitters.
Brown also overthrew first baseman Shane Mink on a third inning comebacker, but Mink and Luke Hawkins teamed up to cut down Andy Thompson at third base. Brown also plunked a pair of Spencer batters.
Anderson put things away in the third when the Bearcats plated 8 runs, taking advantage of 3 Spencer errors and chasing starter John Emry in the process. Brown got things going with a 2-out double that drove in Jacob Russell and Mink. Two more runs scored when Turpin reached on an error. Mink later belted a 2-run double as well.
Pike punctuated the next inning with a grand slam well over the fence in left center. It was Pike's fourth blast of the year, but, he said, "the first one I have ever hit that I knew was gone when I hit it." Pike finished the day with 5 rbi.
Spencer finally scored when pinch runner Brett Tate went to third on Chaz Thomas' single and scored on an error.
Thomas circled the bases on Craig Edwards' double but Spencer's Bryan Fowler, who had been hit by a pitch, was cut down at the plate for the game's final out.
Fowler was originally ruled safe but after Barnes questioned the ruling, the umpires conferred and ruled Fowler had been tagged.
"The home plate umpire could not see the tag," Barnes said. "The field umpire saw it."
Almost overlooked in all of the superlative performances was the fact that Anderson clinched the 2-seed in the district tournament later this month. However, the Bearcats will play Spencer again, but will be the home team, even though the tournament is scheduled to be held at Spencer County.
"We wanted to set the tone for the district tournament," Pike said.
But Barnes cautioned to not expect to see the same Spencer team in 3 weeks. "They didn't throw their best pitcher today," Barnes said, "and we didn't either. We consider Pike our no. 1 right now. We will have to come out and play again."