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Both the North Oldham Junior League and South Oldham Senior League teams captured their respective state titles on July 25 at Oldham County High School.
The first game, which pitted NOLL against defending Junior League state champion Lewis County in a rematch of the Junior League semifinal matchup, came to a similar end as the boys in blue coasted 11-0. North won the first meeting between the teams 17-0.
Things got interesting in the fourth inning as NOLL exploded for nine runs to take command. Grant Larimore had the hot bat during that stretch, chipping in three RBIs on a double.
They tacked on two more down the stretch to extend their lead to 11.
Though the offense stole the show during the boys’ run through the tourney — averaging 11 runs per game — the pitching wasn’t bad either. In the finale, Griffin McLarty turned in a gem from the mound, allowing just one hit in six innings of work.
With the kind of offensive production he’s had behind him, McLarty said his job has been easy.
“It’s great going to the mound knowing that you have an 11-run cushion,” he said, laughing. “It was very comfortable. My coaches always say to play like you’re down 20 runs (though), so it doesn’t matter how much you’re up, you play it the same way.”
Now, they’ll look forward to the Central Region tournament in Ft. Wayne, Ind., Friday. Once that time comes, they should be just fine.
At least, that’s what Lewis County head coach David Skidmore saw. When approached by McKinney, Skidmore said the NOLL team is every bit as good, if not better, than any team his boys played last summer. That certainly wasn’t lost on McKinney.
“I felt like this was a great victory,” McKinney said, “but I also feel like it kind of sets the tone for the kind of team we really are.”
It helps that the team is dotted with eight members of North Oldham’s 2011 Little League World Series Team. Their past experience in the spotlight will go a long way when the atmosphere builds at regionals, McKinney said.
“It’s got to be an advantage for us for sure,” he said. “It’s a totally different atmosphere when you start adding a few more people to the crowd and there’s more excitement. A lot of players never get to have that and our boys have.”
The second game ended much closer as South Oldham traded blows with Ashland National for the better part of the evening, finally pulling ahead 9-6 in extra innings. That came in large part due to a five-run eighth inning, where SOLL stepped on the gas and never looked back.
Early on, Ashland held control, picking up an early lead in the bottom of the first. After tying game in the top half of the second, South relinquished the lead again three outs later.
They gained some momentum in the fifth, plating three runs, but Ashland evened the score.From there, the score stayed gridlocked until their final explosion in the eighth.
SOLL Manager Roger Frantz credits that output to the depth of his team. From top to bottom, they’re a tough out, he said.
“I think a lot of the teams that we’ve played have four or five hitters, but all nine of the guys that I have in the lineup and even guys that I can bring off the bench (can hit),” he said. “They really don’t ever quite or give up and we don’t really fell like we’re ever out of a game.
Tyler Patton proved to be the difference for SOLL, chipping in two RBIs on one hit, while Brian Ridgeway and Ticorian Williams each paced the team with a ribbie as well.
After falling short in four-straight state berths, Frantz said it feels good to finally push through.
“I’ve coached a lot of these boys for years and years,” Frantz said, “(and) just to see us finally get over that hump is an unbelievable feeling.”
They hope it doesn’t stop anytime soon. With their win, they’ve earned the right to travel on Friday to Peru, Ill., for the Central Region tournament. Play starts Saturday and runs through Aug. 8.
Their depth, particularly on the mound, should serve them well in a tournament.
“We’ve got five or six kids can throw. Evan Courtney gives us the best chance to win, but even (in the state final), we went with three different pitchers and all of them pitched well.
“I think when you get to this level of play, you might end up playing six games in five days, and you have to have that pitching depth.”
With this being the first year that either team has advanced to the regional tournament, they’ll find out if first time’s a charm.
So far, so good.
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