Top-seeded Panthers clear favorites heading into 51st District Tournament

Barbourville has been home to the 51st District baseball championship trophy each of the last 12 years with the Knox Central Panthers winning 10 titles during that span and the Barbourville Tigers capturing the other two.

Knox Central and Barbourville have played for the 51st District Championship 10 of the last 12 years, including the last four straight.

And everything we’ve learned during the 2018 regular season says we should expect exactly the same in the upcoming tournament at Knox Central High School, which begins on Monday, May 21.

The host team comes into the tournament as the clear favorite with Barbourville expected to put up its usual strong fight.

Here is a look at each team in the 51st District listed by seed going into the tournament.

As winners of 19 straight against district opponents, Knox Central comes into the tournament as the top seed and are the clear favorites.

The last time the Panthers lost a district contest was on May 20, 2014 versus Barbourville at Knox Central.

Knox Central came into the current season on an extreme high as the defending 13th Region champions. And the Panthers’ confidence showed on the way to a dominating performance that included an 11-1 start.

While there has been a bump or two in the road during the last month, nobody is doubting that Knox Central is still a front-runner.

The Panthers stood at 18-7 overall on Tuesday, May 15 with a league-best 11-2 mark against 13th Region opponents.

Led by a strong offense that was one of only seven in the 13th Region to top 200 runs during the regular-season, Knox Central is more well-known for its stingy defense that ranks among the best in the region and state.

The Panthers have allowed 104 runs, the second-lowest among 13th Region teams.

Knox Central has many leaders, but none more important than Jaylen Adams. The junior leads the team in several offensive categories, including batting average (.453), on base percentage (.500), slugging percentage (.653), runs (35), and hits (34).

Jacob Engle and Peyton Payne also swing big sticks for the Panthers. Engle is batting .365 with a team-best 10 doubles and 25 RBI to go with a pair of home runs and 16 runs scored. Payne hits .368 with six doubles, 24 RBI, and 18 runs scored.

Larken Abner is third on the team with 19 RBI. Blevin Campbell is second in runs scored with 29.

Brady Worley’s 23 hits are fourth most on the team. He has knocked in 13 runs while scoring 11 more while hitting .371. Evan Landrum has 22 hits to go with 22 runs scored and 14 RBI.

Knox Central has wreaked havoc on the base paths this season with 119 stolen bases as a team. The Panthers have only been caught stealing 12 times.

Campbell leads the way with 24 stolen bases, followed by Adams with 22. Three others have double-digit thefts, including Payne with 13, Engle with 11, and Landrum with 10.

On the mound, Payne has been the Panthers’ go-to man and leads the team with six wins in nine starts with an ERA of 3.69. He has struck out 44 in 37 innings on the year.

Thomas Jackson has picked up four wins in seven starts with a team-best 2.59 ERA among starters. He has notched 35 strike outs.

Corey Bright also has four wins and a 3.70 ERA with 32 strike outs.

After a sluggish start that resulted in just four wins in its first 11 games, Barbourville has turned it on over the last month and are one of the hottest teams in the 13th Region with nine wins in its last 11 games as of May 14.

Signature wins during the late-season spurt included 7-3 over Clay County, the winningest team in the region, and 18-2 over Williamsburg, which has the third most wins in the region and just played in the All A Classic State Championships.

The Tigers are led into battle by Trey Owens and Connor Bain. Owens leads the team with 28 hits, which includes seven doubles. He has scored 26 runs. Bain has collected 26 hits, which includes 11 doubles, while knocking in 25 runs and scoring 16 more.

Three other players have more than 20 hits for the Tigers. Tyler Warren and Dakota Tye have 21 each, while Caleb Powers has 20. Tye leads the team with 28 RBI. Warren has 20 RBI while Powers has 15.

Trenton Schall and Mitchell Buchanan also play large roles in the Barbourville offense. Schall has scored 23 runs and knocked in 15 more with 19 hits. Buchanan has crossed the plate 27 times on 18 hits and 10 RBI.

Five Tigers have double figure stolen bases, led by Schall with 16, Warren with 15, Buchanan 13, Owens 12 and Abner 11.

Powers and Buchanan have here wins each on the hill for Barbourville. Bain has two, while several other players have one each.

As a team, Barbourville pitchers have a cumulative ERA of 2.88.

It’s been a tough year for the Wildcats after graduating 10 players from a year ago.

Lynn Camp picked up its first win of the season, and first at Lynn Camp for new coach Rob Ledington, in game two with a district victory over Pineville. But it was not a sign of things to come for the inexperienced Wildcats, who have won just once in a dozen games since and stand at 2-12 heading into the final week.

Chase Brown, Eric Emery and Richard Fanella pace the Lynn Camp offense. Datrick Roberts, Brenton Medlin and Tommy Partin are other names among the team’s hitting leaders.

The last time Lynn Camp won a district tournament game and advanced to the 13th Region tournament was in 2007.

Pineville won its first game of the season but has not been able to win back-to-back games during the season.

The Lions are led by Reese Capps and Cody Goodwin. Capps hits .477 with a team-leading 31 hits. He has scored 25 runs and knocked in 12 others. Goodin has collected 27 hits, including six doubles and two home runs, while knocking in 19 and scoring 17 more while hitting .450.

Deion Coffman is Pineville’s leader on the hill with two wins and 52 strike outs in 40 innings of work. Capps also has two wins and 36 strike outs.