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BOWLING GREEN - With only a minor sputter, the Blue Lick 15 All-Stars got off to a quick start Sunday and then coasted to its second straight state baseball title on Sunday.
Playing in Hot Rod Stadium in Bowling Green, it was the Blue Lick team that had no mechanical issues on this particular day en route to an 8-1 victory.
The win advanced Blue Lick to its second straight Ohio Valley Regional tournament, becoming the first team in league history to repeat state titles.
Coach Tommy Parker’s team, which was viewed by most as the favorite, had a bit of a detour in its roadmap to victory. Instead of playing the customary double-elimination tournament, local organizers opted to have a pool play competition with the top two from each of the four pods advancing to a single-elimination tournament.
Despite being upset with the change in plans, Parker’s team had no problem once it got into the do-or-die situation. In fact, the Blue Lick team run-ruled each of its first two opponents before winning the championship.
“Pool play is terrible,” Parker said following yet another ice water shower from his players. “You still have to win in pool play to advance. It just isn’t the right way to do it.”
He pointed to Franklin-Simpson, whose only loss was to Blue Lick in the final. That team finished with the same record as Blue Lick, which lost one of its pool play games, but was eliminated.
In the finale, Parker said it was key to get off to a fast start. The Blue Lick “hot rods” put the pedal to the metal in the first inning. With one out, Luke Sivori, Tyler Capito and Chance Egnor hit consecutive singles to load the bases.
Dakota Perry was hit be a pitch to drive in the first run and Josh Exton hit a sacrifice fly to plate the second run.
Wesley Parker followed with a single to right and Kyle Hoskins hit an RBI single to score two more for a 5-0 lead.
That would be all Capito and relievers Brandon Johnson and Exton would need.
The only thing that concerned Parker was that the foot came off the offensive accelerator following the opening inning. Sivori and Capito reached on errors in the second and a wild pitch led to another run.
And Blue Lick would score twice in the sixth thanks to three hit batters. The only hit was a two-run RBI double by Capito.
The only Franklin-Simpson run was unearned and the Blue Lick pitchers benefited from two well-timed double plays to end rallies.
“We felt good today,” Parker said of his team. Despite playing in the minor league ballpark, he didn’t feel there were any nerves.
In looking at the competition, Parker felt that Blue Lick should have been the favorite in the finale; however, he said there is never any way to know how 15 years olds will come out and play in any particular game.
Besides the pool play, which he learned about just before the tournament started, another oddity was that Henderson County, a perennial state contender, opted not to play in Bowling Green. Since the team will host the regional tournament this week, it receives an automatic berth and did not have to participate to advance.
After winning a couple of games at the regional tournament last year, Parker is looking to do a little better this time around.
With the addition of Exton and Perry to an already deep and talented squad, Parker said the pitching depth is a little deeper. Plus, the team always plays good defense and hits the ball.
“I think we can make a little more noise this year,” said Parker.
Once again, pool play will open on Thursday with games on two fields. The tentative schedule, which is always subject to change, Blue Lick would play the first game against Central Indiana at 10 a.m. on Thursday and come back at 5:30 p.m. and play the East Kentucky champ. On Friday, Blue Lick plays at 6:30 p.m. against Michigan.
All 12 teams will be part of the single-elimination tournament, which starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The brackets set up for two semifinals on Sunday with the final later that afternoon. No times were set. The winner advances to the World Series in Van Buren, Ark.
This year’s 15-year-old Blue Lick All-Stars were Austin Tucker, Luke Sivori, Dakota Perry, Wesley Parker, Tyler Mayberry, Patrick Malone, Brandon Johnson, Kyle Hoskins, Darren Harper, Joshua Exton, Chance Egnor, James Constant, Tyler Capito and Justin Belt. Parker was assisted by Challis Ford, Bobby Capito and James Mayberry.
Henderson is about 150 miles west of Bullitt County. Either the Western Kentucky Parkway or Interstate 64 can access it.