A second-inning rally that just wouldn’t end ultimately spelled the end of South Warren’s baseball season Saturday.

Breckinridge County sent 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run outburst in the second that provided enough production for a 7-3 win in the KHSAA Semi-State 2 game at Western Kentucky University’s Nick Denes Field.

South Warren (29-13) helped along the Fighting Tigers’ big inning with three errors in the frame, and despite a late scoring burst, the Spartans couldn’t recover.

“Single-elimination baseball is a tough format,” South Warren coach Chris Gage said. “You know, one bad inning and your season ends and that’s what happened.”

Breckinridge County (28-5) extended its winning streak to 14 straight games. The Region 3 champions tallied five hits in the second inning off Spartans starting pitcher Tyler Martin.

Isaac Seeger opened the rally with a one-out double, then John Higdon reached on an error before Cole Tabor’s squeeze bunt was bobbled by Martin for another error. Cohl Proctor followed with an RBI single and another error on a Braxton Carmon bunt helped one more run come across to make it 3-0.

The Fighting Tigers weren’t done. Brock Lucas, Breckinridge County’s slick-fielding shortstop and a University of Tennessee commit, delivered an RBI single. One out later, Kaeveon Mitchell plated two runs with a triple to right field. Kobe Poole followed with an RBI single to left to cap the stunning seven-run outburst.

“They did a good job,” Gage said. “They hit some balls hard and they did a good job of putting the bat on the ball, finding some holes and bloops and stuff like that. You’ve got to give them credit – that’s what we tell our players to do. If you don’t punch out, you can put the ball in play and it’ll find holes. And for them it did today. And for us, we actually had quite a few line outs.”

The Spartans couldn’t generate much offense against Fighting Tigers junior right-hander Preston Cottrell, who kept them in check for five innings despite allowing a few base runners. Cottrell knew firsthand how potent South Warren’s lineup can be, having pitched in relief against them during the Spartans’ 12-7 win against Breckinridge on March 22.

“That team’s a really strong offensive team and when we played them earlier in the season, they really hit the ball,” Cottrell said. “So when I came out here it was just let them hit the ball and hope my defense can make plays, and that’s what we did.”

Cottell was helped by the Fighting Tigers’ stellar defense. Backed by a speedy outfield and a steady infield, the junior wasn’t afraid to pitch to contact against the Spartans.

“He’s a strikeout pitcher, but at this level you’re just not going to find very many strikeouts,” Breckinridge County coach Jeremy Bennett said. “So I challenged him to really pound the strike zone and make them put it in play, but continue to hit your spots. That’s what he was doing.”

Gage said the Fighting Tigers did a good job of hitting the ball on a line or on the ground – the same thing South Warren tried to do, but not as effectively Saturday. Cottrell finished with a complete game, allowing three runs off seven hits and a walk. He also hit three batters.

“He’s a very, very good pitcher,” Gage said of Cottrell. “So you can tell the players to flight the ball down and get it on the ground, but sometimes the pitcher has something to do with you not being able to do that.”

South Warren stranded five base runners through the first five innings before finally breaking through in the sixth.

Trent Rice hit a leadoff single and two outs later Caleb Lloyd was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. South Warren designated hitter Cade Vernon followed with a triple down the right-field line to drive in both runners. Karsten Turner kept the rally going with an RBI single before Cottrell escaped further damage with a fly ball out.

Spartans reliever Logan Smith held Breckinridge scoreless in the top of the seventh, then South Warren tried to mount one last rally. AJ Isable led off with a single, but Sam Gage’s line drive on the first pitch went right to Fighting Tigers second baseman Jacob Ball, who snared the ball and threw back to first for a double play.

“If that ball was a little bit higher, AJ was basically scoring off that,” Vernon said. “We had all the momentum right there, and that play just dropped all of it.”

Cottrell got the final out on a ground ball, and the Fighting Tigers earned a trip to Lexington for Wednesday’s state quarterfinal matchup against Beechwood.

Proctor was 3-for-3 and Poole added two hits for Breckinridge.

Rice and Vernon had two hits each and Isable reached base in all four at-bats for South Warren.

Breckinridge County 070 000 0 – 7 9 1

South Warren 000 003 0 – 3 7 4

WP – Cottrell. LP – Martin.{&end}

– Follow sports editor Jeff Nations on Twitter @Jeff_NationsBG or visit bgdailynews.com.

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