CHAMPS, DUNBAR STYLE (June 22, 2003)

Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
June 22, 2003
Section: Sports
Edition: Final
Page: C1

Mike Fields, Herald-Leader Staff Writer

Typically tense, typically terrific.

That was Paul Dunbar’s signature style this baseball season. The top-ranked Bulldogs seemed to relish close, low-scoring games — especially in the playoffs, but their great pitching always rescued them.
Dunbar delighted its fans with one last signature victory last night — a nerve-wracking 3-1 win over Male in the the finals of the Big Blue Nation/KHSAA State Tournament in front of a record high school crowd of 3,555 at Applebee’s Park.

Dunbar senior Josh Ellis took one last bow as Kentucky’s most dominant pitcher this season by going the distance against Male.

Ellis (12-0) scattered seven hits, struck out eight and walked one. He escaped trouble in the fifth when Male touched him for a run, and again in the seventh when the Louisville team put two runners on with one out.

That last jam prompted Dunbar Coach Mickey Marshall to visit the mound.

“I just asked Josh how he felt, and he said, ‘I’m fine,’ and told me to calm down,” Marshall said with a laugh. “I didn’t calm down, but I walked away.”

Ellis bore down and got the final two batters on a pop-up and fly-out.

The victory gave Dunbar a 41-4 record, the most wins in state history.

“Forty-one victories, what can you say?” Marshall said. “These kids proved themselves. They did something that may never be done again.”

Ellis, a senior who came back this spring after knee surgery over the winter, proved to be a warhorse in the post-season.

He won half of Dunbar’s 12 playoff games, and did it with flash. In his last 40 innings, he gave up only four runs and rang up 52 strikeouts.

Did he think Marshall might pull him last night?

“No,” Ellis said. “He always talks like he’s going to take you out, trying to scare you. But he knows he’s going to leave us in there.”

For the eighth time in 12 post-season games, Dunbar scored in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.

Dunbar’s leadoff hitter Rob Scott reached on a bad throw from shortstop, and scooted to second on a wild pickoff attempt by Scott Green.

Craig Dunn’s grounder to short was bobbled by Justin Middleton. Scott came home on Josh Ellis’ opposite-field single, and Dunn scored on Brett Hunt’s groundout.

Dunbar added a run in the fourth on Kevin Paddock’s double and Davis Stanley’s single.

Male, which relied on the bunt a lot this season, employed it a lot last night.

It paid off in the fifth.

Jeff Arnold doubled, and Matt Payton sacrificed him to third. Travis Biggs tried to put down a squeeze bunt, but he popped it up. It worked because the ball sailed over Ellis’ head as he rushed the plate.

Arnold scored, and when Middleton followed with a sharp single, Male had runners at first and second.

But Ellis escaped further damage by striking out the next batter.

“If that boy isn’t Mr. Baseball, tell me who is,” Marshall said of Ellis. “He’s got heart and courage, and I’m proud of him.”

Male’s ace Green didn’t have his best stuff, but he still battled and kept the Bulldogs in the game.

“For whatever reason, things just didn’t turn out for us tonight,” Male Coach Todd Driskell said. “We just came up a little bit short.”

Dunbar, meanwhile, celebrated its first state title and became Lexington’s ninth baseball champion in the last 30 years.

And the Bulldogs did it in their own style, scratching out runs, playing solid defense and getting great pitching.

That formula worked one more time last night.

“This was the perfect win for us because this is the way we’ve played all year,” said Dunn, a senior second baseman. “This was a typical Dunbar game.”

Marshall agreed.

“That’s been our trademark,” he said. “Do what you can, and fight to get to another day.

“Now the days are over, and it sure feels good.”

JANET WORNE, STAFF – Pitcher Josh Ellis got a hug from his mom, Barb Ellis, after Paul Dunbar beat Male 3-1 win last night for the state championship. Ellis, who finished 12-0 this year, scattered seven hits against Male, struck out eight and walked one.
JANET WORNE, STAFF – Paul Dunbar’s Jon O’Dea (7) ran toward the record crowd of 3,555 fans after the Bulldogs beat Male 3-1.
Paul Dunbar assistant coach Bert Roettger, left, hugged head coach Mickey Marshall after the game.