By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
Even the rains could not dampen the spirits of those who came out to Cederquist Park for the state 11-12 year old Little League tournament Monday. However, it may have had some effect for some.
For the host Ashtabula team, it came out flat in its loser’s bracket with District 8 reps Washington Courthouse. Washington used a 10-run first inning to grab a big lead, and then held on as Ashtabula woke up in the sixth before dropping a 14-12 decision that eliminated the hosts.
In other action, Wheelersburg (District 11) used the strength of a three-run homer by Trey Carter in the top of the sixth inning to finalize a tight 6-3 win over Bellevue, eliminating the District 7 team.
Finally, after a steady rain kept the grounds crew busy, Dover Gray of District 4 fell victim to Avon of District 3 to claim a spot in today’s action with a 13-9 win over Dover.
“We just didn’t seem to be able to get anything going after that first inning until it was too late,” Ashtabula manager Brian Mehalic said. “You just don’t put yourself in a huge hole early and try to come back.”
Washington Courthouse managed only three hits in the first inning, but five walks and four errors seemed to doom the hosts after they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on the strength of Ron Nickle’s two-run double.
Nine errors, eight walks, and nine WC hits led to the offensive outburst.
The game started out eerily similar. Both teams had their leadoff hitters single, followed by walks. The similarity continued as the third hitters hit the ball to shortstop. Whereas Ashtabula’s effort was caught for an out, WC benefited from the first Ashtabula miscue, and it wasn’t until Ashtabula was on its third pitcher facing the ninth hitter that the first out was recorded.
Ashtabula finally mounted a short comeback, tallying three times in the fourth to cut the lead to 11-6, but WC answered with a single run in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
Then the hosts got it going.
Andrew Mehalic (2 hits, 3 runs, 2 RBI) drilled a two-run triple, came home on a fielder’s choice, then one walk later, Grant Kingston drilled a two-run single through the hole between short and third to close out the scoring with one out.
Brady Hall of WC induced a groundout on a superb play by first baseman Derek Hall and the last hitter fanned to end the comeback just a bit short.
“I was really proud of how our kids didn’t give up,” Mehalic said, “but we just weren’t concentrating like we should in the beginning and it killed us. I’m so proud of how the kids fought back. Washington Courthouse is a good team, you can’t take that away from them. They did what they had to do.”
“I think the key for us was keeping our composure at the end,” Washington Courthouse manager Rick Hall said. “You always like to get off to a good start, and we took advantage of several errors and problems they had in the first inning. I was able to work our pitchers well, though, which will give us a chance to use our top pitchers Tuesday. Richard Burns is the only pitcher I can’t use (today).”
Zach Griffith reached base all four times he batted, scoring three with two hits. Mehalic had his big day at the state level, Kingston drove home three while scoring twice with two safeties, and Ryan McClure had a pair of hits.
For Washington Courthouse, Evan Upthegrove and Josh Yoho each scored twice and drove home two. Jarred Hall also reached that level, but with a pair of hits. Burns had a pair of hits and scored twice, and Jordan Baker drove home two.
Dover put on a home run derby in the early going against Avon in the nightcap on Tulino Field. Three of the first four hitters sent a blast over the fence for a quick 4-0 lead.
Noah Lindon led off the Avon second with a blast of his own, but Dover added another four spot, keyed by Jack Murphy’s second homer of the game. Both went to right field.
His second blast came off righthander Jack Roesch, but after allowing a run in the third for Dover, creating a 9-3 score, Roesch retired the last 10 hitters he faced, and his team put together a five-run fifth and sixth innings to get the win.
“This is what you get in a good baseball game,” Avon manager Kevin McNamara said.
“Jack can be considered out ace,” he said. “He settles us down when he comes in. He’s steady and throws strikes. He is so balanced, he doesn’t get emotional, and we need that. I think the game was still in doubt until that last inning when we called the sacrifice bunt and they threw the ball away. I felt confident after that, the way Jack was throwing.”
Avon played some long ball of its won in the comeback. Aiden Dietz, Lindon, and Ben Yanoska each smacked the ball over the fence
Cooper Docherty had three hits, Lindon scored three times, and Yanoska scored twice and drove home three with his long ball in the sixth. That provided the winning margin.
Half of the Dover hits were homers. Jack Murphy ripped a pair to drive home three, Brendan Miller drilled a two-run shot in the first, and Ian Sexton led off their first with a blast.
They just had no answer for the 4 1/3 innings of two-hit ball Roesch threw at them. He fanned six.
Wheelersburg sent Bellevue home with a 15-hit attack paced by Trey Carter’s blast. Athan Temponaras had three hits and Carter a pair, as did Evan Horsley.
Trey Ruhlman had two hits and scored twice for Bellevue.
Possibly a game changer for the Bellevue came when pitcher Gavin Sparling was at the plate. Twice he drilled shots over the left field fence for apparent homers, but both were ruled foul balls, and his team did not score after.
Washington Courthouse meets Wheelersburg at 3 p.m. today on Tulino Field. Avon tangles with Maumee at 3 p.m. on Nappi Field.
Those games are followed by the teams left in the winners bracket.
Hamilton takes on New Albany at 6 p.m. on Tulino Field and Boardman and Guernsey meet on Nappi Field.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.