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HILLVIEW - The bats may not have been ringing as well as manager Scott Belt would have liked but defense and pitching carried the Blue Lick 15 All-Stars to the District 13 championship.
The team will advance to state tournament play Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Bowling Green.
“The defense and pitching carried us,” Belt said after being showered with water during the victory celebration.
Many of the players advanced to last year’s 14-year-old state tournament as a district runner-up. This time, they will go as district champs.
“We added three or four players this year and I think we’re a stronger team,” said Belt.
In the championship game, Blue Lick’s bats came alive to win 9-4 over Okolona. The victory meant that the host Blue Lick won all three of its games.
Belt said he feels more confident this year for a number of reasons.
Besides having a stronger team, he said most played high school baseball and are mentally tough.
Also, he feels confident going eight or nine deep who can pitch.
On Friday, Andy Wooldridge got the call on the hill. Blake Hardy, the first-game winner, came in during the fifth inning and did not allow a hit in the final three innings, striking out six batters.
“He’s our ace,” said Belt. “That’s what the ace is supposed to do.”
Getting down 2-0 on Friday, Belt saw his offense come to life.
Of its 13 hits, seven were for extra bases. Besides J.R. Belt’s two-run homer, the Blue Lick All-Stars got a double and triple from Marcel Hull and doubles from Forrest Miller, Brandon Ray, Matt Harris and Belt.
“We have a lot of balance,” said Belt. “We expect to have a good state tournament.”
In the first two games, Blue Lick capitalized on fifth-inning heroics to win both contests.
In the opener, it was scoreless between Fairdale and Blue Lick. With one out. Hardy singled to center but was out at second on Matt Harris’ fielders’ choice.
With two outs, Jared Abell got an infield hit. Forrest Miller plated both runners with a triple to right-center field.
After Wooldridge made a diving catch and double play to end a Fairdale threat in the sixth, Blue Lick scored what would be the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
After Jessie King walked with two outs, Ricky Conover hit an RBI double.
Hardy, who pitched out of jams throughout the entire contest, had runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh when Belt made a move to bring in his son, J.R.
A single plated two runs but Belt got a ground ball to Hardy at short which recorded the final out for the 3-2 win.
On Thursday, Brandon Ray and Okolona’s Cameron Smith were in a low-scoring battle. Okolona scored its lone run in the third inning.
Aaron Lee hit a pinch single to left to start the fifth. Miller’s bunt sacrificed Lee to second. Marcel Hull followed with an RBI single to left. After a groundout, Ray followed with an RBI double and Conover followed with an RBI single.
Members of the Blue Lick 15 All-Stars include Jared Abell, Scott Belt Jr., Blaise Cannon, Ricky Conover, Andrew Fleener, Blake Hardy, Matthew Harris, Marcel Hull, Jessie King, Aaron Lee, Forrest Miller, Brandon Ray, Daniel Willhite and Andy Wooldridge.
Manager Scott Belt was assisted by Tony King and Eric Conely.