Clay hosts defending state champ Monday

March 25, 2024

(MANCHESTER, Ky.) – The defending state champions will be in Manchester tomorrow evening to square off with the undefeated Clay County Tigers. It’s not just a normal game, as this is to advance in the Kentucky 2A Section 7 tournament. The winner will advance to the sectional state tournament, which features winners from eight other sectional divisions.

Whitley County (5-3) is coming fresh off two losses to Great Crossing High School, and Ryle, while also having lost to Paul Laurence Dunbar 6-5. They play a tough schedule and are coached by Jeremy Shope, who has completely transformed their program.

The Tigers (6-0) are off and running, with a run differential of 87-20 thus far this season. Coach Jason Smith and his group are ready for all challenges that await them, including the defending KHSAA State Champs. “This is a matchup we’ve been working towards,” said Smith. “Whitley set the standard by winning the state championship.”

Smith spoke highly of what Shope has built and knows what to expect when the Colonels come to town tomorrow night. “They play baseball the right way,” added Smith. “They throw strikes, play defense well and limit the number of strikeouts they have on offense. Those are all things we’ve been working on this season, and fortunately we’ve been able to have success.”

Many eyes amongst the 13th region will be fixated upon this game tomorrow night, as it’s viewed as two of the top three in the region. Whitley County, the powerhouse defending state champion, versus the Tigers, a team vying to knock them off the throne led by two of the best in the state in Brandin Crawford and Ethan Jackson. The Tigers have not won a region title since 2011, a drought that Coach Smith would love to change.

“We know going in we have to play well,” said Smith. “That said, it isn’t a game our guys are scared of,” he added. “Our goal is to go out and control the things within our control. Throw strikes, play good defense, and have quality at bats. The rest will fall into place.”

First pitch is set for 6:30PM at Ramsey Ballpark.