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ELIZABETHTOWN – Picking up right where they left off a day earlier in winning the Babe Ruth District 10 & 11 Tournament, the Mount Washington Under-8 Red All-Stars won six straight games in five days to win the Kentucky State Championship.
It was the second straight year that this group of players and coaches sit atop Kentucky machine-pitch baseball having won the same two Under-7 titles last summer.
With the win in the state tournament, coach Jason Crumbacker’s team advance to this week’s Ohio Valley Regional Tournament in Vincennes, Indiana. Babe Ruth does not have an Under-7 regional tournament so last year the Mount Washington squad competed in the Under-8 regional tournament and finished 10th playing up an age group.
This time around, the team will be competing against teams of the same age, or younger, in the final event of the summer. Babe Ruth does not have an event after regional play for this age group.
Because rain had pushed back the final of the district tournament, Mount Washington went from winning that title on a Tuesday to starting play in the Kentucky State Tournament the next day at the new mega-complex in Elizabethtown. That meant three games in ‘pool’ play before advancing to the single-elimination tournament over the weekend.
Crumbacker’s squad got off on the right foot with an 11-3 victory over Henderson County, a game that went into the fifth inning before being stopped (in U-8 baseball, games are scheduled for six innings, but teams are limited to score seven runs in any one inning so games do end early). The momentum built in the next two games as the Mount Washington All-Stars beat West Louisville 15-2 and then Grayson County 15-1 in games that were stopped early.
By winning their ‘pool’ Mount Washington got a first-round bye in the 12-team single-elimination tournament, moving directly to the quarter-finals. That first game was last Sunday morning and for the first time in over a week, the All-Stars found themselves down early before rallying to beat St. Matthews 7-5 in a rematch of the championship game of the district tournament.
Crumbacker’s team trailed 5-2 heading into the fifth inning before scrambling to get the win. Mount Washington had beaten St. Matthews 8-0 in the district final and a week before that had pulled out an 8-7 win over that squad.
Now in the semi-finals, Mount Washington squared off with another team from the district tournament as they played the Jeffersontown Maroon squad. This one was over quickly as Crumbacker’s squad bolted to a 10-0 lead before coasting to the championship game with a 10-2 victory.
Mount Washington thought they were going to have to face another team from their district tournament in the final game in Elizabethtown, but Henderson County spoiled that when they beat Fern Creek in the other semi-final.
In a rematch of the first game of the tournament, Mount Washington battled Henderson County, winning 7-2 this time.
The championship game was close until Mount Washington pulled away in the last two innings. Ethan Morris was a big reason for that as he had a pair of triples that drove home four of the runs. Colin Elder also had a big hit late as his double drove home the final two runs.
This group of boys has been together for three seasons so being behind in games is not a big deal to them.
“We have been with them so long and then they don’t realize they are down,” Crumbacker said. “They play on an even keel. They don’t get too high or too low.
“The first game against Henderson County and they scored three times in the top of the first inning and then didn’t score again,” the coach recalled. “Then against St. Matthews they were up 5-2 with two innings to play and we won. In the final, Henderson County scored two in the first inning and then didn’t score again.”
It was the game against St. Matthews that had the Mount Washington coaches on the edge of the bench for most of the game.
“The only real struggle we had was against St. Matthews,” Crumbacker said. “We played good defense except for that game. We had five or six errors. We don’t normally make that many mistakes, but we got past that and then had no more trouble.”
Over the past three years of playing in tournaments in their own age level, the Mount Washington group has gone 40-0 and won 11 tournaments.
Crumbacker expects to see over 20 teams in this week’s Ohio Valley Regional including some of the teams in the Kentucky State Tournament including Henderson County. Last year, this group was knocked out of that tournament by the team that went on to lose in the final.
“I feel we can do very well,” Crumbacker said. “We feel confident.”
Crumbacker and his coaching staff were going to give his players and parents a few days off last week before returning to practice on Sunday. The team has to make one major change was the pitching machine will be moved four feet closer to the plate for the regional tournament. While the pitching speed will remain at 40 mph, the shorter distance means that the ball comes in straighter and without the slight arch when it is 46-feet away.
The regional tournament will be the first overnight trip for the young players.
“Things will be fun for the kids,” Crumbacker promised. “We started conditioning for this in January. This is the end of a seven-month season for us.”
Members of the Mount Washington Under-8 Red All-Stars are: Jackson Crumbacker, Brady Westwood, Patrick Ballard, Luke Smith, Colin Elder, Camron Brogan, Nolan Davenport, Kaeden Russ, Jayden Gajdik, Kanin Hampton, Ryan Daugherty and Ethan Morris.
Jason Crumbacker is the team’s head coach and he is assisted by Keith Brogan, John Elder, Jimmy Westwood and Jerry Morris.