ASHLAND, Ky. – More than 50 years since winning the first of three consecutive state high school baseball championships from 1966 to 1968 – a feat equaled only one other time in Kentucky high school history – the first member of the Ashland Tomcats dynasty era is being inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
Billy Lynch, who as a senior left-handed pitcher in 1966 orchestrated maybe the best individual season in Kentucky baseball history, is one of 13 members in the Class of 2018 that will be inducted Saturday night in Lexington, Ky.
Here are Lynch’s numbers his senior year when Ashland was 25-0 and state champion:
-0.31 earned run average
-Eight complete games out of 10 starts
-150 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings
-Averaged 15 strikeouts per game
-Allowed only 17 hits
-Allowed only 3 earned runs
Those are Hall of Fame numbers in anybody’s book and that’s just his senior season, which also included a .386 batting average. During his Tomcat career, he carved out a 27-2 record and as a junior was on a team that lost only once, in the state semifinals. That year he was 8-1 with a .679 batting average (you read that correctly; during one stretch he had a hit in 14 consecutive at-bats).
Ashland was 42-1 during his junior and senior seasons combined.
There are 469 members in the KHSAA Hall of Fame, including this year’s class, so saying Billy Lynch’s induction is overdue is obvious.
Hopefully, Billy Lynch isn’t the last member of the Tomcat dynasty era to make the hallowed halls. On deck should be Billy’s little brother Bob, who also went 27-2 in his Tomcat career and started on all three state championship teams and was the winning pitcher in the state finals during two of those seasons.
No question, Bob Lynch belongs, too. Very few players in state baseball history were starters on three state championship teams. Only the Tomcats and Pleasure Ridge Park (1994-96), whose coach Bill Miller is a member of this year’s class, achieved the feat.
The Lynch brothers, who were also both dominant basketball players for the Tomcats, were nominated through a herculean effort from teammate John Mullins, who must have contacted more than 100 people to submit forms. Mullins was relentless, just like he was as a player, to give his Tomcat teammates an opportunity to at least get on the ballot.
Ferrell Wellman, who spoke during the Elks Sports Day when Bill Lynch was honored two years ago, also shook the rafters for his friend to be among those included in the KHSAA Hall of Fame.
Hopefully, next year, Bob Lynch can join his older brother in the KHSAA Hall of Fame. These two great players certainly weren’t the only reasons why the Tomcats dominated the state to the tune of 109-11 from 1965-1969. There were other great pitchers and hitters who simply knew how to play the game of baseball.
I’m not sure northeastern Kentucky, or even the state of Kentucky for that matter, will see a program so dominant in a five-year period. The ’65 team made it to the semifinals before suffering a one-run loss on a throwing error and the ’69 team lost 1-0 in the championship game. That’s how close Ashland was to winning five state titles in a row.
Congratulations to Bill Lynch on being the first of hopefully several from the Tomcat dynasty era to receive some overdue state recognition.