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Top two 9th Region teams – Beechwood and Ryle – battle just the way you knew they would in first round

By Dan Weber
NKyTribune sports reporter

Just the way you thought it would go.

Beechwood and Ryle, the Ninth Region’s top two teams in the KHSAA’s RPI rankings got the regional off to a terrific start Sunday morning at Thomas More Stadium.

Beechwood Coach Kevin Gray tells his players they may have just beaten the best team with their win over Ryle.

Ryle’s Raiders, 24-8, jumped out right away, but took just a 1-0 lead out of the first on the top-ranked, defending champion Tigers and that wasn’t enough. Not with a no-out, bases-loaded opportunity and Beechwood starter Matt Kappes’ future hanging by a thread.

“You’re on a short leash,” Beechwood Coach Kevin Gray told Kappes with three on, no outs. Turns out that leash took Kappes (8-2) into the fifth inning for the come-from-behind guys from Fort Mitchell who did what they almost always seem to do in recent years.

They scored enough to get the lead and held on in the field for a 6-4 win that advances them to Monday’s 8 p.m. semifinal game against Dixie Heights.

They did it with smart, patient at-bats and good gloves.

“We really stress defense and pitching,” said Gray, adding another element to the mix after getting just enough from Kappes and reliever Chase Flaherty on the mound.

But that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of big-time catches by left-fielder Nazario Pangallo and center-fielder Tyler Fryman and an unassisted double-play on a line drive catch by shortstop Ben Meier, the cleanup hitter who scored three runs with a double and a triple.

It helps that he bats between Cameron Boyd, maybe the most dangerous high school hitter in Kentucky and eighth-grade phenom Tyler Fryman, who’s already accepted a college offer from Louisville and added a pair of RBI that mattered.

Photo by Bob Jackson

Tyler says he won’t have to worry about other offers when he gets to high school. Not that that’s going to be the case. If he keeps it up, Fryman will be getting lots of offers in the years to come and they won’t all be for college.

“I was just looking to put it in play,” he said of his two RBI sacrifice flies, one to the deepest part of center field after a squeeze bunt had gone foul. “He always tries to bunt for a base hit,” Gray said of his precocious grade schooler.

But the result was the same. “That run was huge,” Gray said of the insurance sixth run in the seventh. Just as the eventual game-winner in the fifth, also driven in on a Fryman sacrifice fly.

“I’ve been playing in games like this my whole life,” says Fryman, barely past his pre-teen years but a travel team veteran. In fact, he developed his quick jump on the ball in center watching TV “and getting my jump” when the ball was hit to the outfield and working on his steps in his head.

“I get their backs, they get mine,” he says of what it’s like to follow the likes of Boyd and Meier as the No. 5 man in the Tigers’ lineup. “I pinch ran to start and then they put me in to hit . . .” And field.

And there he stayed for a Beechwood team that lost two seniors – maybe the best two players in the Ninth Region before the season – pitcher/outfielder Mitchell Berger to football knee surgery and catcher Bryce Estep to a South Carolina baseball academy.

“That was a heck of a game,” Gray said. “We beat a really good team, maybe the best up here.”

Photo by Bob Jackson

Which is why both teams went with their top two pitchers in this one/two matchup that makes one-and-out baseball tournaments so tough. Ryle heads home after a year that saw the Raiders do so many good things.

Dylan McIntyre and senior Caleb Mann.

“Don’t shoot yourself in the foot,” was how Meier described what it is Beechwood does. They got out of that first giving up just one run and Kappes got his footing.

That’s the reason the Tigers so often are able to come back. “We only made one error,” Gray said. II they get three or four runs in the first . . . ,” well, then all bets are off. But Ryle didn’t.

Kappes got a big strikeout and a couple of ground outs and was able to pitch into the fifth with fewer than 75 pitches so he’ll be good to go Wednesday if Beechwood gets to the championship game. So will Flaherty.

Who will pitch Monday night is the question. “If we have to pitch five, we will,” Gray said. “But I’ve always thought you have to win Game 1.”

Ryle went down swinging with the Raiders; top two hitters — leadoff Tate Cordrey and second-slot Keegan Flaherty getting five hits (Cordrey two, Flaherty three) while scoring one run each. But Beechwood didn’t give them anything free.

Which Beechwood did. In a game that could have well happened in Wednesday’s championship finals had the draw been different.

But it wasn’t. It was what it was.

And now one of the top two teams for the season has to go home.

BEECHWOOD 0 2 1 0 2 0 1 – 6-7-1
RYLE 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 – 4-9-1
WP—Kappes (8-2); LP—McIntyre (7-2)

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