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BOWLING GREEN – North Oldham’s 10-year-olds went into their last game of the Little League State Tournament Monday playing for pride.
NOLL had already been eliminated from advancing after losing its first two games, 14-13 to Hazard/Perry Saturday and 12-11 to Bowling Green East Sunday.
So in facing Ashland American Monday, NOLL was looking to end its state tournament trip on a high note.
That’s what the NOLL 10’s did, holding on for a 9-7 win on a sun-baked afternoon at Ephram White Park.
NOLL scored the game’s first nine runs but the team from Ashland nearly came all the way back.
An Eli Meyers catch at the warning track for the third out of the sixth inning clinched a tense win for NOLL.
The 10’s avoided the same outcome as the Hazard/Perry game, where they let a 9-2 lead slip away and eventually lost.
“It’s very intense,” manager Shane Young said. “…We’ve tried to be positive the rest of the games about it and keep them ready to go and stay upbeat as much as possible. When you’re 10, it’s very tough because you get down and it’s hard to get back up.”
NOLL took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Shortstop Luke Schneider led off with an infield single. Two batters later he stole second, then came home on a Grant Gibson RBI double.
Gibson reached third on an error and scored on a Jaron Cotton RBI groundout to make the score 2-0.
The 10’s piled on in the second inning, scoring five runs.
Jake Lindeman and Tristan Wilson scored on a Meyers RBI single, pushing the lead to 4-0.
Sam Young scored Schneider and Meyers on an RBI triple, making the NOLL lead 6-0.
Cotton drove Young home with an RBI single for NOLL’s fifth run of the frame, making the score 7-0.
Jonathon Klein and Schneider hit a double and single back-to-back in the third inning with one out. Both then came home to score an error by Ashland’s shortstop, making the cushion 9-0.
The score stayed that way until the top of the fifth. Ashland scored five runs that inning, coming on an RBI groundout and an NOLL error. That cut NOLL’s lead to 9-2.
Ashland’s Asher Stevens drove in two more runs with an RBI single to cut the margin to five runs.
Ashland whittled one more run off that lead with a Chase Flowers RBI single that made the score 9-5.
Cotton came on in relief of Klein on the mound for NOLL and got a groundout to end the inning.
Ashland rallied again in the sixth.
Ryan Atkins singled and went to third on an NOLL error. He was driven home by an Ashland double to make the score 9-6.
The seventh run came home on a Cotton wild pitch, trimming the margin to 9-7. There still weren’t any outs.
But Cotton buckled down and got the Ashland batter 0to ground out to first baseman Brady Pickle.
Cotton threw another wild pitch on the next at-bat, but NOLL catcher Logan Wade rushed to the backstop to retrieve the ball.
He threw to Cotton, who was covering home as Ashland runner Neshawn Peppers broke from third.
Cotton got the tag down on Peppers as he slid into home for an important second out.
Two batters later, Meyers made a leaping catch on the warning track to end the game and preserve the 10’s only win of the state tournament.
“We were trying to get out on a good note and then build for next year,” Shane Young said. “Let them know that by winning this game, we deserve to be here and we can compete just as well as anyone else here. We’ll build on it for next year and hopefully we’ll be in the same situation.”
This group from NOLL will likely compete together next summer as 11-year-olds and then the following year as 12’s.
Working on team morale will be a priority going forward into next summer, Young said.
“Staying up as a team, picking each other up if someone makes a mistake,” he said. “We have a tendency of getting down and it brings the whole team down. It’s just the morale of the team.”
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