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MW U-10 pulls a Houdini to win state crown

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By Mike Farner

 FERN CREEK - Pulling a couple of rabbits out of their hats and making a few tight situations vanish into thin air, the U-10 Mount Washington Softball All-Stars would have made Houdini blush on Sunday with some marvelous escape moves to claim the title of the East Kentucky State Tournament at Fern Creek Park.

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The same core group of girls won the U-8 East Kentucky State Tournament two years ago and advanced to finish fourth in the Great Lakes Valley Regional Tournament in Wisconsin.

The title on Sunday once again qualifies the group for the regional event next week, again in Wisconsin, if the parents want to make the trip. In the U-10 age group, there is no Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken play past the regional level. It is not until the group reaches the U-12 level that they can advance to a national championship tournament.

Mount Washington started the weekend with a pair of wins in a small preliminary group of games that helped seed the 11 teams at Fern Creek into a single-elimination bracket event that started on Saturday. Because of their 2-0 start Mount Washington did not begin play in the bracket until Sunday.

That is when the slight of hand action began.

In the first game on Sunday morning, coach John Klefot’s team managed just one hit, but that was enough as they beat East Louisville 2-1 behind the pitching of Taylor Roby who gave up just three hits herself. Mount Washington won the game with a single run in the bottom of the sixth and final inning.

That set up a meeting with Fern Creek Orange in the semi-finals. It was a back and forth game that Mount Washington did not secure before posting three runs in the top of the fifth and then holding Fern Creek scoreless in the bottom of the frame for a 6-5 victory in a game called after five innings because of the time limit.

Mount Washington then made the move from one Fern Creek field to the other for the championship game against Lake Cumberland. Klefot’s team had more magic up its sleeve as they battled as the visitors, pulling out an eight-inning, 19-12 victory with both Roby and Olivia Hensley doing the pitching. Hensley got the win after she came on when Roby ran out of innings.

(Softball pitchers are allowed to work six innings in every two games during a tournament.)

In fact, it was Mount Washington’s deeper pitching staff that won the event. Lake Cumberland used its top two pitchers for six innings and then one inning and then their number three pitcher could not match Mount Washington’s bats in the eighth inning, giving up nine runs on three hits.

The tight victories did not surprise Klefot. His team has made a living out of winning close games in 2011.

“Our games are usually close,” the coach said after the four-hour championship game concluded as this was the only game in the tournament without a time limit.

“Our girls play to the last pitch,” the coach added. “We usually win with our defense. We don’t have a lot of big sticks. It’s usually defense. This was the most hits we’ve had in a long time.”

Mount Washington seemingly had control of the game when they led 7-3 after four innings, but then they gave up four runs with the help of four errors in the fifth inning as Lake Cumberland moved ahead for the first time in the game. Mount Washington countered with three runs in the top of the sixth to lead 10-8.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lake Cumberland got runners to second and third with two outs, but Mount Washington was within a foul tip of ending the game right there. After the foul tip, a line drive back up the middle plated both runners and sent the game into extra innings.

Neither team scored in the seventh inning despite both teams getting runners to second and third.

The outcome finally came into focus in the eighth when Mount Washington sent 15 batters to the plate as they scored nine times on four hits with eight walks. Lake Cumberland did score twice in the bottom of the eighth before Hensley got the last out on a strike-out.

Mount Washington finished with 12 hits in the game, but they did leave eight runners on base. The winners got two doubles from Lauren Mudd and another from Roby in the win.

Lake Cumberland did have seven hits in the game and Mount Washington did make six errors, but Lake Cumberland also left eight runners on base.

“Our pitching worked out well for us,” Klefot said of having three pitchers available for most tournaments. “We were fortunate the way it worked out today.”

All of the girls on this team played in the Mount Washington Youth League this season. However, nine of the 12 team members do play together on a ‘traveling’ team that Klefot coaches.

Members of the Mount Washington Under-10 Softball Team include: Olivia Hensley, Stacey Maloney, Lauren Mudd, Taylor Roby, Kali Davis, Krista Watts, Wheels Decker, Taylor Ramsey, Elizabeth Hines, Brooke Hatfield, Sierra Graham and Maddie Klefot.

John Klefot is the head coach and he is assisted by Eric Roby, Troy Phillips and Billy Crider.