The two-time defending Kentucky American Legion baseball champs got off to a late, but good start this season. The Lyon County Aces bested Mayfield in both ends of a doubleheader — 5-4 and 6-0 — on June 15 at Lee S. Jones Park in Eddyville.
The Aces entered Tuesday’s game against Harrisburg, Illinois, 4-1 under first-year coach Adam Driver.
The season got a bit of a later start than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the team is not technically playing under the Lyon County American Legion Post 68 name, as the state organization canceled its regular season and playoff due to the outbreak. So there will be no title defense this year, and the team will enjoy a two-year reign.
“We’re still acting like we’re defending our championship,” Driver, of Marion, said.
With a full season of coaching under his belt when play opens in the summer of 2021, Driver believes the team will be well on its way to a third straight title.
“If we get a three-peat, that will be big,” he said.
Driver has a lifetime of baseball knowledge and experience to draw from. He played college ball at Campbellsville University. And he is being mentored by the coach of Post 68’s two-time champs, Greg Vincent. Vincent also coached Driver in Legion ball in 2014-16. Driver played on the team in 2013 under Trey Wheeler.
The new coach said picking out his starting lineup is a breeze, but knowing exactly what do in some in-game situations gets a little tricky. That’s where Vincent’s help is coming into play.
“At the end of the season, I think I’ll be right where I want,” said Driver.
Things seem to be working, with the team’s only loss a 5-4 decision to Parkwood, Tennessee on Saturday.
The Aces have won in a variety of ways —a walk-off hit batsman in its season opener followed by a 6-run shutout. In a doubleheader against South Fulton on Thursday, the first game was a 17-9 blowout. The nightcap was a pitching duel that ended 1-0 in favor of the Aces.
“We’re just trying to get the kids some games,” Driver said of the logic behind taking on a season with no title hopes.
Driver is a middle school social studies teacher by trade. Last year, he taught in Livingston County, but will be teaching at Henderson North Middle School this fall.
In the team’s 2020 debut against Mayfield, the game was tied 4-4 going into the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Tate VanHooser was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to win it. Cody Holub got the start (3.0 IP, 5 K, 4 BB, 1 ER) before Erik O’Leary delivered four strong relief innings — giving up two hits and no earned runs with four strikeouts and a walk for the victory.
Eddyville trailed 3-2 after 4 ½ innings, but got two runs in the bottom of the fifth — courtesy of an RBI single from VanHooser to score Ben Hargrove, and VanHooser would later score during a Tate Quertermous at-bat behind an infield error.
In the second game against Mayfield, the Aces held a precarious 1-0 lead after 5 ½ innings before a colossal sixth stanza. An RBI single from Michael Barrow and an Ethan Ramage walk set things up for Josh Wilson, who came in for a pinch-hit and belted a three-run homer over centerfield for the final score.
Cameron Clements earned the win behind 4 2/3 innings of four-hit ball with five strikeouts and four walks, while Aidan Rush relieved for two perfect innings with four strikeouts. Of his 27 pitches, 18 were strikes.