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Cats, Shelby to tangle for top spot in district

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By John Herndon

They were ranked as the top two baseball teams in the Eighth Region in pre-season. That they are the best of the 30th District has been a given since Anderson County and Shelby County have both advanced to the regional tournament the last three years and nine of the last 11.

So it is no coincidence that the most anticipated game of the first half of the season comes Thursday night when the Bearcats and Rockets line it up. The first pitch is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Shelby County athletic complex.

A year ago, the teams went to extra innings before Shelby won in the regular season meeting. Getting a reprieve with the district's top seed, Shelby broke a 9-game losing streak when the Rockets defeated Eminence in the district opener, then went on to defeat Anderson for the district crown.

Shelby pulled a mild surprise by winning the Eighth Region a year ago, then pulled a major one when the Rockets beat Ryle and Pleasure Ridge Park in the state tournament before losing to Paul Dunbar in the state championship game.

Shelby has a new coach in Bart Roettger, an assistant at Dunbar last year, and was ranked 22nd in the state in last week's coaches' poll. The Rockets have beaten highly-regarded Mercer County and had a 7-5 record through last weekend.

Anderson, 6-4 after Saturday's win over Danville, has also played a rugged schdule with a win over previously unbeaten Barren County two weeks ago.

The teams have just one common opponent, Eminence. Shelby routed the Warriors in the season opener 20-0.

Anderson won 58-0. Thursday's winner will likely face Eminence in the first round of the district tournament while the loser will probably face Spencer County.

"We have begun to play some pretty decent baseball, not as good as we possibly can, but still pretty good," says Anderson coach L.W. Barnes. "These kids are starting to actually believe they can be good, and when they put that confidence along side their true ability, we could be as dangerous as everyone in the region seems to think we are."

Other upcoming games

Friday and Saturday, the Bearcats play in the Capital City Classic at various sites around Frankfort. Friday, the Bearcats take on a good Perry County Central team that was 6-3 through the weekend, and Marion County (7-1). Both games will be at Western Hills.

Saturday, the Bearcats take on powerful Ballard (5-1) at Franklin County, then play a game that afternoon against a to-be-determined opponent.