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Third title over four years still sweet to young team

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By Mike Farner

MOUNT WASHINGTON - Winning district titles never gets old to the Under-11 Mount Washington baseball All-Star program.

With an 8-6 victory over Fern Creek on Saturday, coach Kevin Ezell’s team won its third Cal Ripken District Tournament over the past four years. This year it was the combined District 2 and District 20 championship.

The title returned Mount Washington to the East Kentucky State Championship Tournament that will be played this week in Somerset. This core group of players finished second in the Under-10 East Kentucky tourney last season on the same fields.

(Because it was a combined district tourney, Fern Creek will also advance to the East Kentucky event this week.)

Winning titles never gets old for this group. Gloves and hats were thrown in the air after the team beat Fern Creek on Saturday.

“They have done a real good job for us,” Ezell said after the trophy presentation on the field. “Winning three of the last four district tourneys says a lot about them.”

Ten of the 12 players were part of last season’s winning team and most of the All-Star team members also play together through the spring for the Under-11 Mudcats, a team that Ezell also coaching. The Mudcats have posted a 20-6 mark this year. In a tournament at Fern Creek a week earlier, the Mudcats went 3-1 and finished as the runners-up to Southeast Lexington, the team that beat them last year in the East Kentucky State Tournament. Mount Washington actually split a pair of games with the Lexington team in that tournament.

Mount Washington beat Fern Creek twice in the Cal Ripken event, a tournament that Ezell’s team hosted for the second year in a row.

The Under-11 All-Stars opened play with a tough game against East Louisville (formerly known as Middletown) before winning 7-5. It was a lot easier in the semi-finals as they rode the pitching of Tate Hatfield to a 13-0 win in just four innings.

After Fern Creek beat Hikes Point in the loser’s bracket final, that set up the rematch with Mount Washington. This time the game was closer before Mount Washington scored twice in the bottom of the fourth inning to account for the final 8-6 score.

In both the first and last games of the tournament, Mount Washington got six innings of work from Tyler Sharpe on the mound.

While Hatfield and Sharpe are the first two pitchers for this team, Ezell says that the group can go a lot deeper when the tournaments get bigger.

“We can go five or six deep,” the coach said of his coaching staff. “But in a short tournament like this we can use just two.”

(Cal Ripken rules allow pitchers to throw six innings over two consecutive games.)

In the opening win against East Louisville, Mount Washington got out hit 10 to 6, and trailed 3-1 after two innings before scoring three times in both the third and fourth innings to pull out the 7-5 victory. Both Sharpe and Bailey Rakes had doubles in the win.

In the first game against Fern Creek, Mount Washington got hot early and then rolled to the easy 13-0 win. Hatfield pitched all four innings and did not allow a hit.

Mount Washington finished with 14 hits and were helped along by five Fern Creek errors. The winners got doubles from Troy O’Brien, Sharpe, Hatfield and Paul Eldridge.

“They are a really good team, but that was just a bad day for them,” Ezell said of Fern Creek. “It happens. You have to remember that we’re talking about 11-year old boys. Today (Saturday) was more like it.”

The rematch in the championship game was a lot closer. Fern Creek led 4-2 after two innings and it was tied at 6-6 after three innings before Mount Washington scored twice in the bottom of the fourth.

In the first inning, Ezell’s team scored a pair of runs after Fern Creek had hit a home run to score twice in the top of the inning. Jacob Lesshafft walked and Sharpe singled before both runners moved up on Hatfield’s fielder’s choice. O’Brien then singled home both runners.

Trailing 4-2, Mount Washington moved ahead with four runs in the third frame as they sent eight batters to the plate. Rakes led off by reaching on an error and then Lesshafft walked. Sharpe’s single drove home the first run but then an fly ball out and an out at home plate left runners on second and third with two outs.

This time it was Garrett Ezell with the big hit as he plated two runners with a single. He moved to second on the throw to the plate and went to third on a wild pitch. Ezell then scored on Garrett Wilson’s single.

After Fern Creek tied the game in the top of the fourth, Mount Washington got the two deciding runs in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, both Lesshafft and Sharpe walked and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Hatfield followed with a single that scored both runners.

Sharpe, who had allowed ten hits in his first outing, gave up eight hits in the championship game. Three of those came in the first inning including Evan Flener’s two-run home run. All five of the hits over the last five innings were singles and Sharpe walked just one batter while hitting two.

The game turned in the top of the fifth when the first two Fern Creek batters singled, but then Sharpe got the next three batters out. Those were the last two hits for Fern Creek.

Team members for the Under-11 Mount Washington All-Stars include Garrett Ezell, Tyler Sharpe, Jacob Moore, Tate Hatfield, Clayton Stallings, Jacob Lesshafft, Connor O’Bryan, Paul Eldridge, Garrett Wilson, Zach Hamilton, Bailey Rakes and Troy O’Brien.

The team is coached by Kevin Ezell, Craig Sharpe and Junebug Rakes.