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After a stunning run through district and state play this summer, the South and North Oldham Little League all-star teams said goodbye to their world series' dreams late last week. Though the games would be much different for each, the results would be the same as both would fall just short of the biggest stage.
In Fort Wayne, Ind., the North Oldham junior league team looked in good shape after jumping out to a quick 2-1 record in pool play.
With a hard-fought 6-3 win against Michigan on Aug. 7, they advanced into the knockout stages with plenty of momentum.
Jaxon Lashley provided the biggest bat in that game, smacking a home run, while Griffin McLarty found a way to contribute with a double.
With their win, the boys in blue earned the best No. 2 seed and looked poised to make a run at the top prize.
They took the first step two days later, knocking off Minnesota in a close 6-4 win but from there, things went bad quickly. After a rain delay, the boys returned to the field in the championship but couldn't find a rhythm.
It came to a head in the third inning as the Ohio team poured on eight runs.
Though the game ended 22-3, NOLL Manager Wayne McKinney said it was closer than the score suggests.
“We fought hard but it seemed like everything that we tried to do, we just couldn't make up," McKinney said. "Our boys did great job through the whole tournament though. I think this season was a great success for the first year of our junior league baseball program.”
That might be an understatement. With last season's march to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series, the team has definitely showed it can count itself among the nation’s elite.
That should bode well for Oldham County High School baseball coach Scott Gerlach, who will welcome 10 of the 13 boys from this year's team to the Colonels as freshmen next spring. Three boys are in middle school.
Meanwhile in Peru, Ill., the South Oldham team faced a difficult challenge, playing in the same pool as the regional champion, runner-up and a semifinalist team. They finished 1-3.
"This was a great experience and I think the kids really enjoyed it," SOLL Manager Roger Frantz said. "We competed in every game that we played so it was just a great experience all the way around."
Brian Ridgeway, a player on the team, agrees.
"This was a ton of fun and was great knowing that team finally got a chance," he said. "We've been battling for a long time for this chance and we've always ended up short. The experience gives me a lot of pride."
After stumbling to a 0-2 record in the first two games, SOLL took to the field against Michigan looking to make up some lost ground. After a quick 7-5 lead through six innings, they needed to make it through three more outs. That's when things got rough, as a pitching change led to an eight-run swing in Michigan's favor. SOLL couldn't recover and fell 13-8.
Their next game proved to be much better for South as right fielder Ticorian Williams acted as the offensive catalyst early on, smashing two home runs. One came in the team's opening at-bats and he added another in the sixth.
South cruised to a 18-13 win.
Now, the team will go their separate ways. Next spring, a number of the boys find themselves on rival high school teams. Six attend South, one calls Oldham County home and two will return to North.
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