By DOUG EADS
Just call them 12th Regional champions — and they earned it.
The Somerset Briar Jumpers brought home their first regional title in baseball since 2007 on Monday afternoon at Southwestern High School, and they did it in dramatic fashion and exercised some demons in the process.
When the dust was settled in the 2019 regional tourney, it was Phil Grundy and crew surviving and rallying, to take down arch-rival Danville when it mattered the most by a final count of 10-9.
“This is what we wanted,” stated a very happy coach Grundy afterwards. “We wanted an opportunity to compete and win a regional title, and we wanted it to be against Danville.”
“The Admirals have a great program, and they have been a thorn in our side in the past, and we wanted one more shot at them,” continued the Somerset head coach, after his team moved to 22-12 on the season with the win. “They knocked us out earlier in the year in the All A, and we wanted another shot at them. I love our guys, and I love this team. They worked hard, and through all the ups and downs of this season, they hung tough and stayed together, and they just kept working extremely hard. This is a great group, and I love being their head coach.”
It was Kade Grundy who set the tone early in Monday’s title game against Danville, as he homered to lead off the game giving Somerset a quick, 1-0 lead.
However, the Admirals would quickly erase that deficit in the home half of the first inning, and basically forced Somerset to play from behind for most of the day.
The Briar Jumpers trailed the Ads 9-8 going into their final at bat in the top of the seventh, and that’s when Chance Stayton came through in the clutch for Somerset big time.
Stayton tripled home the tying and go-ahead runs with a clutch, two RBI hit, and Somerset had the 10-9 advantage.
Danville meanwhile could muster no threat whatsoever in the bottom of the seventh, and the celebration was underway.
Kade Grundy went 3-4 at the plate with his home run and a run driven in, while Dylan Burton — who got the start on the mound for Somerset — also went 3-4 at the plate with two RBI’s.
Stayton was 3-5 at the plate with three runs driven in including the game-winning hit, and Cole Reynolds added a double, and also drove in a pair of runs.
Dakota Acey picked up the win in relief for Somerset, throwing 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, allowing Danville three hits while fanning three batters.
With the win, Somerset will move on to the KHSAA State Baseball Tournament, where the Briar Jumpers will take on the winner of the 11th Region in Sub Sectional round of the playoffs.
That game is slated for this weekend.