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U-10 Blue Lick All-Stars make winning look easy

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By Mike Farner

HILLVIEW - The Blue Lick Under-10 All-Stars made it look easy last week as they swept three games en route to winning the Cal Ripken District 13 Championship.In fact, it was pretty much easy for coach Jeff Walls' team. In three games, Blue Lick outscored its opponents 29-2 while allowing only four hits.The sweep qualified Blue Lick for the West Kentucky State Tournament which will begin later this week near Glasgow.In the championship game on Thursday, Blue Lick rolled past Okolona 15-2 in a game that was stopped after the Jefferson County team batted in the top of the fourth inning.The win was the second in the tournament for Blue Lick over Okolona. In the first game of the tournament, Blue Lick had rolled to a 7-0 victory in a regulation six inning contest.Blue Lick then beat Prairie Village 7-0. After Okolona beat Prairie Village on Wednesday, that set up the championship final that Blue Lick dominated.The games between Blue Lick and Okolona were somewhat contentious. A handful of the Blue Lick players competed with Okolona the past two seasons under Walls. As 8-year olds, that group won the state tournament and last year as 9-year olds they were second in the state tournament.This year, Walls and his coaching staff decided to form a traveling team which became the Venom, which included players from Okolona and Blue Lick as well as one from Germantown (and a player from Indiana that was not involved in the All-Stars). Because Okolona had league games for that age group on Saturdays, the Venom players opted to play at Blue Lick, which played its 10-year old games on weekdays.The Venom played in five tournaments this spring and summer and won three of those events and were runners-up in two others.Once All-Star season arrived, the bulk of the Venom team became the Blue Lick All-Stars, adding four players from the regular season league to round out the roster.Obviously, the extra games with the Venom paid big dividends, much to the chagrin of the Okolona fans.(Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth assigns each league zip codes from which players can be drawn. Because leagues like Okolona and Blue Lick are so close together, many of the zip codes overlap, making the shift from one league to another possible without penalty for the players.)"I expected this," Walls said of the strong performance at the district level. "This is a good group. They don't come around like this very often."Some of the kids are from Okolona and play on my traveling team," the coach added. "This is the most fundamentally sound team I have seen at this age level. They are so easy to coach."The Venom won the USSSA State Tournament a few weeks ago. One of the teams that they beat was the Mudcats (in the semi-finals). The Mudcats are basically Mount Washington's 10-year old All-Star team that faired well in the District 2 Tournament this past weekend."This team is battle tested," Walls said. "They don't take anything for granted."In the opening win over Okolona, Blue Lick scored in each of the first four innings as they coasted to the 7-0 victory. Scott Wright was the starting pitcher and got the win before turning the ball over to Ryan Henson who got the last six outs.The pitching duo allowed just one hit, a single in the fourth inning. Okolona later loaded the bases in the inning with one out but a catch by Garrett Wilson in right field and a strikeout ended that threat.As it turned out, Okolona had just four base runners in the game.Blue Lick's offense was highlighted by a home run by Trenton Saylor in the fourth inning that scored the final two runs for the winners. Blue Lick finished with six hits with two each coming off the bat of Daulton Walls and Saylor.It was more of the same in the 7-0 victory over Prairie Village in the semi-finals. Henson got the start and was the winning pitcher as Blue Lick allowed just two hits.The offense did the rest with nine hits including a double and a home run by Wright as well as a triple by Walls.It took just a few minutes for Blue Lick to wrap up the title on Thursday in the rematch with Okolona. After the visitors went down in order in the top of the inning against Saylor, Blue Lick exploded for nine runs as they sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning. Two of the five hits in the first inning were doubles as both Walls and Saylor drove home two runs with their second hits of the inning.Saylor had a single, double and triple in his first three trips to the plate. Jalen Stewart added a triple in the second inning also as Blue Lick scored four more runs.The only hit for Okolona was a double by the number nine batter in the line-up in the third inning that drove home their first run. An error and three walks in the fourth inning allowed Okolona to score again, but that was all the offense they could generate.The members of the Under-10 Blue Lick All-Stars are Scott Wright, Lucas Harbin, Austin Trammell, Ryan Henson, Garrett Wilson, Michael Harris, Jalen Stewart, Jacob Kelly, Nick Hayes, Brandon Klefot, Daulton Walls, Jaylen Blair and Trenton Saylor.Walls' coaching staff also included Doug Henson and Jason Kelly.