First pitch of the 2018 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament is scheduled for Thursday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington.
Fifteen teams will take the field looking to dethrone defending champion Pleasure Ridge Park and earn a shot at the state title, with the championship game set for 7 p.m. on June 16.
Here’s a look at each opening round matchup:
Greenup County vs. Muhlenberg County (June 7, 11 a.m.): The Musketeers, champions of the 16th Region, and Muhlenberg County, champions of the 3rd Region, will kick off the state tournament action. The Mustangs enter with a 21-14 record, knocking off Ohio County, 1-0, in the regional final, after falling to the Eagles in the District 10 final. It’s the second straight year appearing in the state tournament for Muhlenberg County. They knocked off Rowan County in nine innings last year, 4-3, before falling to Simon Kenton in the quarterfinals. Greenup County, ranked sixth in the latest Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, comes in with a 36-5 record after outscoring opponents 29-1 in the regional tournament. The Musketeers are making this seventh state tournament appearance and first since 2016.
Corbin vs. Hazard (June 7, 1:30 p.m.): Corbin enters with a 24-12 record after claiming the 13th Region title with a 17-10 victory over Whitley County. It’s their third trip to state and first since 2005. Hazard moved to 26-6 with a 9-1 victory over Perry County Central in the 14th Region final. It’s the third straight trip to state for the Bulldogs and the seventh overall.
Pleasure Ridge Park vs. St. Xavier (June 7, 6 p.m.): The third game of the state tournament pits St. Xavier, ranked first in the latest KHSBCA Coaches Poll, against the second-ranked Pleasure Ridge Park team. St. Xavier beat PRP on May 2, 17-5. The Panthers, coming off a state title last season, moved to 28-6 with a 9-0 win over Bullitt East in the 6th Region final. PRP has won six state titles, which is tied for second-most in KHSAA history with Owensboro and DuPont Manual. St. Xavier has won seven in 17 trips, with the most recent title coming in 2016. The Tigers are 33-2 after a 7-4 victory over Male in the 7th Region final.
LaRue County vs. Boyle County (June 7, 8:30 p.m.): LaRue County knocked off Central Hardin, 11-9, for the 5th Region title. The win moved the Hawks to 22-7 overall and earned them their first trip to the state tournament since 2003. Boyle County moved to 26-6 with an 11-3 win over Rockcastle County in the 12th Region championship game. The Rebels will be playing in the state tournament for the second straight year and third time overall. Last year they fell to Knox Central, 9-4.
Highlands vs. South Oldham (June 8, 11 a.m.): The Bluebirds and Dragons will kick off Friday’s first round action. Highlands is 26-13, having knocked off Covington Catholic, 3-2, in the 9th Region final. Highlands, ranked 10th in the latest KHSBCA poll, is making a fourth straight appearance at the state tournament and seventh overall. They’ve never won it, but made it to the title game in 2016, before falling to West Jessamine. South Oldham beat North Oldham, 5-2, for the 8th Region title and will be making their first trip to the state tournament. They currently have a 21-12 record.
Paintsville vs. Christian County (June 8, 1:30 p.m.): Paintsville will be making their ninth appearance in the state tournament and first since 1990, when they were crowned champions. The Tigers moved to 25-12 with a 5-2 win over Johnson Central in the 15th Region title game. Christian County earned their eighth trip to the state tournament and first since 2008 with a 6-1 win over Union County in the 2nd Region title game. The Colonels are currently 20-12. Christian County was the state champion in 2004.
Campbell County vs. McCracken County (June 8, 6 p.m.): After a one-year absence, Campbell County has made it back to the state tournament. The Camels earned their fourth trip in school history with a 17-0 shellacking of Montgomery County in the 10th Region final. In 2016, Campbell County made it to the state championship game before falling to St. Xavier, 1-0. Repeating that run won’t be easy for the Camels, as they’ll take on the fourth-ranked Mustangs in the first round. McCracken County moved to 32-8 with an 8-3 victory over Paducah Tilghman in the 1st Region final. It’s the fifth trip to state in the school’s five-year history. The Mustangs have never been crowned champions.
Madison Central vs. Bowling Green (June 8, 8:30 p.m.): Madison Central will be looking for their first baseball state title since 1982, while Bowling Green will look for their first since 1965. Madison Central, ranked third in the latest KHSBCA poll, moved to 30-7 with an 8-6 win over Scott County in the 11th Region final. They’ll be playing in the state tournament for the 11th time. Bowling Green enters with a 21-11 record after a 14-0 victory over Russell County in the 4th Region final. The Purples are playing in the state tournament for the 13th time overall. Their last appearance came in 2016.