FEMINGSBURG – It looked like Larry Riley would finish his baseball coaching career at Lewis County with 188 wins when he left the position following a stretch from 1989-2000.
But a second stint with the Lions has led to a milestone.
Seth Wright struck out 18 batters to lift Lewis County over Fleming County on Friday, 6-1, to help Riley reach the 200th win of his career.
“Just having good kids at Lewis County all those years – that’s where it started. I had been out of it for 18 years and they talked me into coming back this year and trying it and seeing if we can kind of get the program back going again,” said Riley. “So far, we’re playing a lot better and starting to pick it up. Just a super bunch of kids and they just play hard all the time. It means a lot.”
Riley’s first stint as coach came to an end following the 2000 season, but his life around baseball didn’t. He stopped coaching to watch his son play, before being coaxed into coming back.
“It was all worth it. Coming back is hard and I’m a little bit older,” said Riley. “That makes it a little bit tougher getting up in the morning, but these are great kids and they’ve got great parents and it’s a good program. If I ever did it, it would always be at Lewis County.”
For Riley, one big difference from coaching in his first stint is the pitching. He says teams have more quality players to put on the mound, and the players are bigger, faster and stronger now.
But only one pitcher was needed for Lewis County to pick up the milestone victory against the 16th Region opponent – Seth Wright.
“It feels amazing for him to trust me like that and me to go in and perform like I did tonight. I feel really honored,” said Wright. ‘I feel really honored he chose me to be that pitcher and get his 200th win.”
Wright gave up a leadoff single to Nick Clark in the bottom of the first, but picked him off at first base.
And it would be a while before another batter put a ball in play.
The junior right-handed pitcher struck out the next six batters he faced, before Brayden Clark singled in the third with one down.
“We were thinking about saving him [Wright] for tomorrow to save some innings because we’ve got a doubleheader tomorrow, and one of the coaches said, ‘Who are you bringing in after Seth?’ I said, ‘Seth,’” said Riley. “I told him that I’m riding him and I wasn’t going to take him out unless they started just ripping him. They hit him hard two or three times. That’s a good team, Fleming County is.”
Clark advanced to third base when a pickoff attempt from Wright went to the fence and scored on a bunt put down by C.J. Gulley.
“We knew we weren’t going to hit it. I was trying to do everything we could do to get a run somewhere. We did. We got the run,” said Fleming County coach Austin Hart. “Other than that, we couldn’t put it in play with runners in scoring position.”
Gulley made it to third, but Wright struck out his seventh and eighth batters of the game to get out of the inning.
He’d go on to strike out 10 more in the game, but he didn’t know how many he had accumulated.
“I had no clue. I’m usually really superstitious. I usually go in, drink water, get my glove, I’ll swipe it, flip it up, go run to the mound, do my routine and I’m good,” said Wright. “I had no clue.”
The Lions’ offense, which Riley says has had players slumping somewhat lately, got going in the third following a leadoff single from Austin “Big Cat” Collins. Collins scored on a single up the middle from Sam O’Keefe for the 1-0 advantage. Lewis County added two more in the frame on a two-run single from Garrett Applegate that scored Marty Simonnetti and O’Keefe.
Lewis County would add a run each of the next three innings. In the fourth, it came following two errors, which Simonnetti took advantage of with an RBI single. In the fifth, it was O’Keefe scoring on a balk from Andrew Jackson and in the sixth it was Bryce Wallingford driving in Izaia Burns, who was running for Collins, with a single to right field.
Jackson allowed six runs – four of which were earned – on seven hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out seven in the game, before being replaced by Tanner Farris in the seventh.
“We couldn’t have asked any more from Andrew. He was throwing strikes and doing everything we asked him to. They were hitting ground balls, fly balls – we let a couple fly balls drop in the outfield that should have been caught and those led to a couple runs,” said Hart. “Just small things that killed us in that game, but Seth Wright threw outstanding.”
Fleming County falls to 8-8 with the loss and will travel to Estill County on Saturday for a 12 p.m. game.
The win moves Lewis County to 12-6 on the season. The Lions are scheduled to play Magoffin County and Montgomery County on Saturday.
2B- O’Keefe (LC), Saunders (FC), Crump (FC)
RBI- (LC) Applegate 2, Simonnetti 1, Wallingford 1, O’Keefe 1. (FC) Gulley 1
LOB- Lewis County 6, Fleming County 4
WP- Wright. LP- Jackson.
Records: Lewis County 12-6, Fleming County 8-8