Knox Central advances to quarterfinals led by Hill, Stewart efforts

The Knox Central Panthers represented the 13th Region well in the opening round of the State Baseball Tournament.

“Our kids showed up and played. I think they had some nerves in the first inning, but after that we realized we deserve to be there and we are as good as anybody there,” Coach Mike Bright said on the Panthers’ State showing.

Knox Central handled the Boyle County Rebels with a 9-4 win to advance to the quarterfinals, a feat the 13th Region has not done since South Laurel in 2014.

The Panthers were strong off the bat with two runs in the top of the first inning, but the Rebels answered with four runs of their own for the lead.

Knox Central did not take the lead until the fourth inning, but they held Boyle County to zero runs after the first.

Senior Seth Hill led the defensive effort pitching the complete game where he allowed only six hits, walked none, and struck out 15 batters—a huge feat for Hill as his strikeout record became tied for the tenth-most in single-game KHSAA tournament history and the most since 2013.

“He is so poised. Anytime he stands up there, he’s got a shot to win,” Bright shared on his senior pitcher, who will be pitching for the Union College Bulldogs next year, “If anyone is going to give up four runs early and be able to bounce back from it, it’s Seth. He is as strong mentally as anybody we have ever had.”

On the offensive side, Senior Jaxon Stewart killed a hit over the wall, recording a two-run home run in the fifth, as well as a triple in the third. Stewart had a three-for-four performance at the plate with four RBI.

Knox Central will face 5th Region Champ, Marion County, who beat Hazard, a 14th Region opponent the Panthers lost twice to this season, on Saturday, June 10 at 1:30 p.m. The quarterfinal game will take place at the Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington, Ky.

“We are tickled to death just to be here at this point; we are just going to take the momentum and go,” Bright commented as he looks forward to Saturday.