OKOLONA - For the first time in 18 years, the Blue Lick Optimist program has captured a state title in the oldest age group under the auspices of Babe Ruth baseball.
Going through with just a single loss this entire season, Scott Belt’s 18 and under squad captured the 2012 Kentucky State Championship on Monday at the Okolona sports complex. The win came easily as after winning the loser’s bracket final earlier in the day, the South Lexington team then decided to forfeit the scheduled game to Blue Lick.
In reality, Blue Lick had secured a berth in the Babe Ruth regional in Dodgeville, Wis., earlier in the tournament, which mixed teams from both sides of Kentucky. South Lexington also advanced to the Ohio Valley Regional despite the forfeit.
Ohio Valley Regional play runs July 13-18 with a berth in the World Series in Weimar, Texas, at stake.
While a win is a win and the big trophy still was awarded to Belt and his players, winning by forfeit did involve some frustration. Most of that came from the fact that more than one college coach had planned to watch the game and look at some of the seniors-to-be in action.
“Considering what we had for some of the boys and some guys here to look at them, it was frustrating,” Belt said. “It’s tough in that regard. We have 16 guys and we feel that most of them can play at the next level.”
Blue Lick has not had an Under-18 program for a number of years. In fact, North Bullitt graduate Marcel Hull, who will play at Spalding University next season, had been playing at Okolona before the program at Blue Lick was revived with two teams this summer.
The team was reformed with this type of success planned.
“We were pretty much planning on this,” Belt said on Monday. “We have one step complete and now another to go. Our goal is to play in Texas. Chapter one is done and chapter two is ahead. All season long we’ve been telling them not to look ahead, to take one step at a time.”
Leading up to the championship game, Blue Lick was dominant in most of its encounters.
In the tournament opener, Blue Lick defeated Fairdale 12-2 in five innings.
Mitchell Hutchison, a North Bullitt senior-to-be, was dominant on the hill in going the distance.
At the plate, Blue Lick busted the game open in the second inning. North Bullitt’s Jesse King opened with a walk and Marcel Hull, an Eagle grad, had a single. Southern grad Kody Masterson hit a two-RBI double and Hutchison followed with another double.
Bradley Combs, who had three home runs in the first three games, drilled a three-run shot to complete the inning.
In Saturday’s game against South Lexington, Blue Lick had its tightest battle in winning 5-1.
North Bullitt grad Blake Hardy went the distance in allowing no earned runs.
For Blue Lick, all the scoring was done in one inning - the third.
With two outs, Hardy and batterymate Jeffery Fortwengler each drew walks. Javier Gueria, who graduated from Atherton, had a two-run double when the left-fielder misplayed the screaming line drive. JR Belt reached on an infield single and Combs, a Bullitt Central senior-to-be, launched another three-run shot to left-center field.
Hardy was in total control as he struck out 12 batters and allowed just three singles the entire game.
With Gueria on the hill in the winner’s bracket final on Sunday evening, Blue Lick cruised to a 5-0 victory.
Unable to catch up with the Spalding University player’s heat, Highview could only muster one hit in the first six innings. During the regular season, Highview secured the lone victory over Blue Lick.
Offensively, the big blow was again from Combs, who connected on this third round-tripper of the tournament.
The Blue Lick 18 All-Stars include: Jeffery Fortwengler, JR Belt and Kody Masterson, who played at Southern; Mitchell Hutchison, Blake Hardy, Jesse King, Jordan Burden, Marcell Hull, T.J. Barr, Matt Hayes and Forrest Miller, who played at North Bullitt; Javier Gueria from Atherton; Damon Shepherd, Ben Parker and Bradley Combs of Bullitt Central; and Brandon Blair from Fairdale.
Scott Belt was assisted by David Hayes and Jeff Parker.