Taylor McKeel knelt down, wiping the dirt from home plate.
Knowing it would be his last performance on the Campbell County diamond, he kissed the plate following the Cougars’ 6-1 victory over Central to advance into the District 3-AAA tournament.
“It was really bittersweet,” fellow senior Bo Farris said of the victory.
Campbell County struck late, after they struggled with getting base runners home during the first four innings.
“We did a good job of getting somebody on base,” head coach Ryan Browning said. “I think the first four innings, we had somebody on and got them to second. I think two or three innings, we bunted, but we just couldn’t get anybody in.”
For the players, however, it was a different story.
The will to win was greater than their bats could stand.
“What really kept us going was that we wanted to keep playing,” Tucker Cain said. “None of us wanted to stop playing, because we love it. That was a really big motivation for us.”
However, their momentum slowed over the weekend, as a late surge by Hardin Valley and batting woes against Karns eliminated the Cougars from the District 3-AAA tournament on the Hardin Valley campus.
“The one against Hardin Valley, it was pretty much like the one in the regular season,” Cain said. “We played them really close until the last inning. They kind of exploded, and we didn’t get a couple of calls.”
The Karns game, however, was a different story.
According to Browning, the team had more than an ample opportunity to win the game.
“Against Karns, we left 11 people on base,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. We helped them out early, and we made some mistakes.
“We were getting people on base against their best pitcher of the year, or at least the last two months. We just couldn’t get hits when we got on base. It works on our psyche, when you have people on constantly, and we can’t get them in.”
Campbell County fell 12-2 to Hardin Valley on Friday night, before losing 7-0 against the Beavers on Saturday morning.
Although, the losses weren’t the only sting the Cougars will feel this season.
Campbell County loses three seniors who have played a vital role in their success this season.
One of the hardest to replace is Louisiana native, Hunter Scott.
“It’s going to be hard to replace Hunter,” Browning said. “He’s got a pitch you swing at and miss a lot in that curve ball…Hunter’s pitched well this year. Earlier, we had to break him from trying to do too much, you know, being 10-foot tall and bullet proof. When he settled down and got within himself and pitched, he pitched excellent. I think he ended up with five wins.”
The Scott-Farris combination will also be broken, as Farris will graduate at the end of this month, as well.
For Farris, it’ll be the communication the two had that the team will miss.
“It will be really different,” Farris said. “We could go almost a whole game without calling anything, because I know what he was going to be throwing. With my brother (Max Farris) coming up (as a catcher), I’ll have to teach him the same things that Hunter and I did.”
According to Browning, however, it’s going to be hard to replace the senior behind the plate.
“You don’t appreciate a real good catcher, until you don’t have one,” the coach said. “Several years being the coach, we didn’t have a guy that could hit, block and throw. Bo can do all of those behind the plate.”
McKeel will also graduate in May.
The senior spent his final campaign helping the Cougars on the bases.
“McKeel, he works hard at everything he does,” Browning said. “He’s the self-proclaimed fastest man on the team. I’ll take his word, since we never had a straight race to acknowledge that, but I enjoyed his attitude.”
The coach said it was impressive how much time McKeel spent on the field the day before senior night, preparing the field after the rains.
However, for Farris, the senior class has been impressive this season.
The three seniors know they have something to leave behind.
“I think with the new coaches, we laid the foundation,” the catcher said. “We laid the foundation that the rest of them can keep building on.”