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BOWLING GREEN – North Oldham’s 12-year-olds left no doubt this weekend that they were the class of their pool at the Little League State Tournament.
NOLL went 3-0 in Pool A play at Ephram White Park, winning its three games by a combined 36 runs. That earned the squad a spot opposite Paintsville in a state semifinal that was played Tuesday night after the Era’s press deadline.
NOLL capped off its perfect pool play record with a 10-4 win against a Campbellsville team that won the state title last season as 11-year-olds.
The six-run win marked the first time all postseason that NOLL didn’t beat a team by double-digits and trigger the mercy rule.
“Every team besides (Campbellsville) we’ve run-ruled in the fourth inning or fifth inning,” said Marshall Cuzick, the starting pitcher against Campbellsville. “Everybody on our team can hit, everybody on our team can pitch. Everybody can field.”
North Oldham 10, Campbellsville 4 (Game 3)
Trevor Amburgey’s role changed this week but he remained just as important to his NOLL team as ever.
Amburgey, one of the team’s top pitchers, felt some shoulder pain while throwing Saturday, so he wasn’t used on the mound during the rest of the pool games. Instead he was used as a bat off the bench.
Amburgey played that role well Monday against Campbellsville. He scored the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth to break a 4-4 tie, then belted a three-run homer later in the inning as NOLL went on to a 10-4 win.
He’d been icing his arm over the last few days, trying to stay fresh for a moments just like those in the top of the sixth.
“I couldn’t do the exact same things I usually could,” Amburgey said. “So I had to stay focused, be really careful about it.
“Coach didn’t want me to throw very often. So whenever I came up there and hit a home run it felt really good.”
NOLL took a 4-0 lead Monday. Shortstop Austin Reed started the team’s scoring when he hit a first-inning solo home run off the grill of a Warren County sheriff’s car parked beyond the right-field fence.
NOLL added three runs in the top of the third on RBI singles by Reed, Parker Caudill and Steven Votaw.
But unlike the rest of the teams NOLL has faced this postseason, Campbellsville had an answer.
A third-inning solo home run and run-scoring wild pitch in the fourth trimmed the NOLL lead to 4-2.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, a Jackson Antle solo home run and Nicholas Knifley RBI double off pitcher Ben Gibson tied the game at 4-4.
Gibson got the final two outs to strand Knifley at third and keep the score tied. But for the first time all postseason, NOLL was about to play a sixth inning in a close game.
“Something we’ve talked about a lot is how to play for one run,” manager Doug Oak said. “We needed one run and we executed well, then next thing you know, that was our spark… We put the six on them.”
Anthony Reynolds led off by reaching on an error. Amburgey entered the game to run for Reynolds.
Amburgey moved to second on a Campbellsville passed ball, then on to third thanks to a perfect Deaton Oak sacrifice bunt.
Gibson then knocked a single to score Amburgey for the go-ahead run.
NOLL didn’t let up. After a Reed single and a wild pitch, a Campbellsville error on a ball off Parker Caudill’s bat allowed two runs to score, making the lead 7-4.
A Gavin McLarty single then put Amburgey at the plate with two runners on.
The lefty waited on his pitch before sending a home run over the center-field wall, making the score 10-4.
Gibson kept Campbellsville off the board in the sixth to preserve the win.
“We had contributions all the way through from people, whatever their role is,” Doug Oak said. “Trevor hits the three-run homer coming off the bench.
“It just seems like that’s the kind of make-up that this team has. It’s a really good thing for carrying us forward.”
North Oldham 16, Corbin 6 (Game 2)
North Oldham clinched the pool title Sunday, beating Corbin 16-6 in five innings.
The win marked NOLL’s sixth by means of the mercy rule in its first six games this summer.
“One of the parents over there said, ‘You gave us a heart attack today,’” Oak said. “It’s like, OK, we run ruled a team in five innings and won by 10 runs and gave them a heart attack.
“...We’re going to have to play some six-inning games against good teams with good pitching where we’re going to have to squeak out some runs and try to find a way to win. You’re just not going to run-rule everybody.”
Sunday’s game looked early on like it would present the first real adversity NOLL faced this summer.
A McLarty RBI single scored Deaton Oak in the top of the first to give NOLL a 1-0 lead.
Its bid to turn in one of its trademark big innings was foiled when Corbin pitcher Cam Allen struck Ross Pfost out swinging with the bases loaded.
Allen came back in the second inning and sat NOLL down in order.
But he was pulled before the third inning in favor of Jacob Gardner. NOLL didn’t take long to get to Gardner.
The second batter he faced, Reed, hit his second of three home runs in pool play. The solo shot gave NOLL a 2-0 lead.
After a Caudill single, Gibson took a pitch that was high and inside and belted it over the right-field wall to double the margin, at 4-0.
One day before, Gibson had smashed a ball off the wall on the fly, just missing a home run.
Wet weather played a role in Saturday’s ball not going over, but the clear skies Sunday offered little impediment for Gibson’s shot.
“He had several hits today, putting the barrel on the ball,” Doug Oak said of Gibson. “He tattooed those balls he hit today.”
McLarty reached on an error and Amburgey singled. Ben Phillips took over for Gardner on the mound, but NOLL didn’t let up.
A Caleb Jones RBI single and an error on the play made the score 6-0.
NOLL then scored one run each on an Oak RBI single, Reed RBI single, wild pitch, Caudill RBI groundout, Gibson RBI triple and another Corbin error. In all NOLL left the 11-run top of the third with a 12-0 lead.
“We got a couple of hits and really got going,” Gibson said. “That led us to get some more good hits.”
Corbin made four runs up off Oak, who replaced Trenton Mills on the mound a third of the way through the bottom of the third.
Corbin’s Ethan Wine followed two walks and a single with a grand slam to make the score 12-4.
NOLL didn’t let Corbin get any closer the rest of the way, cushioning its lead with a four-run fifth.
McLarty, Amburgey, Reynolds and Oak all had RBIs in that frame.
McLarty pitched the bottom of the fifth, allowing a two-run double but not allowing any more runs to cross.
That kept the score at 16-6 and invoked the 10-run, five-inning mercy rule.
“We’ve done a really good job of putting pressure on the other team with the bats all the way through,” Oak said. “We hit the ball hard and run the bases hard and we’ve been able to take advantage when the other team’s made a mistake.
“We’ve had some big hits up and down the lineup.”
North Oldham 21, Eastern American 1 (Game 1)
NOLL started its state tournament with a 20-run demolition of (Lexington) Eastern American, winning 21-1.
The team set the tone with a 13-run first inning.
Caudill and Reed hit back-to-back home runs in the third, as NOLL piled on.
McLarty added a triple and a double.
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