LEXINGTON, Ky. – Hunter Faehr was swarmed by a large contingent of reporters with television cameras and smartphones early Friday afternoon at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
The Simon Kenton senior didn’t have time to shed the catcher’s gear on this humid mid-June day.
His two-RBI double in the sixth inning helped give the Pioneers a state final appearance for the second time in program history and the first since they were the state runner-up in 2014.
As he stood near the first-base dugout and answered a few questions about the Pioneers’ state semifinal win, he had to catch his breath.
“It’s really special,” Faehr said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
It was that type of day for the Pioneers.
Simon Kenton rallied to defeat Marion County 5-2 in a Kentucky High School Athletic Association state baseball semifinal.
“It’s amazing,” Faehr said. “I’ve always dreamed about this.”
Simon Kenton trailed 2-0 after 2 ½ innings. But, just like all postseason – the Pioneers wouldn’t fold.
“They play for each other,” Simon Kenton coach Troy Roberts said. “That’s what family is all about. We said earlier let’s play for our seniors. They’ve taken that mantra and it’s a family thing. They love each other.”
The Pioneers (27-15), who tied the program record for most wins in a season, play either McCracken County or Pleasure Ridge Park in the state final at 11 a.m. Saturday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
The state final was moved back two hours because of the expected significant heat index in the Lexington area Saturday afternoon.
Junior Bailey Martin will take the mound for the Pioneers Saturday morning.
Martin helped propel the Pioneers’ rally Friday as they scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Junior Brayden Trattles started the rally by reaching on an errant throw by the shortstop. Martin’s single to right allowed Trattles to take third.
Then, senior Joey Ponder’s sacrifice bunt allowed Trattles to score on a play at the plate to give Simon Kenton a 3-2 lead.
Two batters later, it was Faehr’s turn. Roberts reminded him on the way up to the plate that he’s been clutch all season. Faehr took it to heart.
“You just got to think you got to do this for your team,” Faehr said. “It’s not about you – it’s for your team and winning the ballgame.”
Faehr drove in two runs with an RBI double down the left-field line to make it Simon Kenton 5-2. He said it was the biggest hit of his career.
“He’s in the nine hole, but he’s one of our leading hitters and we just leave them down there because he’s comfortable,” Roberts said. “He turns the lineup over for us. I promise you – he’s had (a clutch hit) all year.”
Simon Kenton senior left-handed pitcher Mitchell Kreidenweis kept the Knights at bay in the seventh – allowing just one hit.
Kreidenweis (8-4) allowed just two hits and one earned run the entire game.
He allowed a two-out solo home run to left in the first inning. As he walked back to the dugout he told his Simon Kenton teammates he wouldn’t allow anymore scoring.
“Oh my gosh, what can I say about Mitchell?” Roberts said. “He’s a big guy, and I love him to death.”
Marion County did add another run in the third on a wild pitch to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.
But, Kreidenweis and his teammates had a short memory.
He struck out Marion County’s Landon Russell to retire the side as the Knights left three runners on base.
Simon Kenton, winners of 10 consecutive games, struck in the bottom of the third inning when senior Trent Kincaid hit the first pitch he saw to the corner in left field for an RBI double to score junior Jaren Cooper, who led off with a walk.
Two batters later, Trattles hit a slower roller to shortstop but the first baseman failed to scoop the low throw. That error allowed junior Kyle Taylor to score from third and tie the game at 2.
There is little margin for error in the state tournament and the Pioneers seem to thrive in pressure-filled situations.
The Simon Kenton players and fans can’t wait for Saturday morning.
Like all week, the theme was to have fun no matter what the situation presents.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Kreidenweis said of playing for a state title. “I’m going to be doing a lot of cheering tomorrow. I’m going to be behind my guys and ready to go. It’s going to be exciting.”