By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
After a massive volunteer effort Saturday in the aftermath of heavy storms, the District 1 Little League committee deserved a break.
They had gotten rain-soaked fields into superb condition for the Little League State Tournament at Cederquist Park.
Weather conditions got back to summer-like atmosphere on Sunday afternoon, and Hamilton used of four solo homers to knock off Wheelersburg, 5-1, on Tulino Field.
Hamilton was limited just to six hits by Trey Carter, Ean Dahm and Conner Mullins of Wheelersburg.
Immediately following, Boardman battled for a seven-inning, 5-4 victory over Dover Gray.
On Nappi Field at the same time as Hamilton and Wheelersburg battled on Tulino, a tough Guernsey County squad used three long balls to blast Maumee, 15-4.
Cameron Tenhunfeld, the winning pitcher for Hamilton, ripped the first solo shot to right-center leading off the second. Payton Pennington did likewise in the third, Gage Retherford hit one leading off the fourth, and after Hamilton took a 4-0 lead in the fifth by scoring an unearned run on a single and the only Wheelersburg error, Alex Mills drilled a shot over the fence along the right-field line.
Wheelersburg was unable to get a sustained offense going against Kaden Kimbrell, Tenhunfeld and Pennington.
They scored their lone run on the last play of the game. Carter ripped a one-out single and came all the way around with two outs as Conner Mullins drilled a hit to right-center. A perfect throw from Retherford, though, nailed Mullins at second for the final out.
“Their lefthander was pretty tough today,” Hamilton manager Tim Nichting said. “We got some big hits when we needed them. Our defense was really good today, but we didn’t hit so well like we normally do. Again, their pitching had a lot to do with that. I was able to save two of our top pitchers for our next game, which should help us.”
While Hamilton’s offense wasn’t as sharp as normal, it made noise when working. Pennington had two hits and scored twice, and Tenhunford also had a pair of hits.
Wheelersburg manager Christ Carter, while disappointed, also was realistic.
“Defensively, I think we played really well today,” he said. “Offensively, we’ve struggled our last two games, and did again today. This is nothing new in being here for us, but today we just didn’t get it done. Hamilton is a very good team.”
In Sunday’s second game on Tulino Field, Dover Gray and Boardman started out in what looked like a slugfest. Both teams scored two runs in the first inning.
The Boardman runs came on consecutive cannon blasts over the center-field fence near the flagpole off the bats of Jake Fonderlin and Alex Cardona, and one had to wonder what kind of a game it would be.
Boardman got a two-out single from Travis Harvey with runners on second and third to end the contest and earn a right to continue in winners bracket action next Tuesday. They will play Guernsey County on Nappi Field at 6 p.m.
“After that first inning, a key factor for us was keeping our composure,” Boardman manager Brian Fonderlin said. “Our kids are not ones to hang their heads when things go wrong. This is a different level, though, and they really picked things up. Defense was the key. I think we turned a pair of double plays, and that kept Dover from getting going.”
Boardman was paced offensively by Cardona, who ripped three hits and scored twice while reaching base all four times he hit. Harvey, who started on the mound, had a pair of hits, as did Fonderlin.
Cameron Kreps entered to pitch the seventh in a 4-4 ballgame and got the win on Harvey’s big single.
“I think they had three double plays on us,” Dover Gray manager Mike Murphy said. “It’s tough to win when a team plays defense like that. (Boardman) is a good, fundamental team. We had our opportunities but didn’t get the big hits we needed. This was a good game, definitely not a fluke win for them or a fluke loss for us.”
Starting pitcher Brendan Miller had two hits for Dover, and Jeremy Salvo drilled a long double off the centerfield fence in the fourth inning to tie the game at 4-4.
Boardman had scored twice in the third for a brief lead when a ground ball was misplayed with runners on first and second to plate one run, and Nick Yallech drilled a single to center for the second tally.
That rally came off Jack Murphy, who took over on the hill for Dover after Miller struggled and did yeoman’s work. He fanned eight in 4.2 innings to keep his team in the game.
They battled to the end, and Harvey got the job done.
Action continues today with two games at 3 p.m. and another at 6 p.m. On Tulino Field, Wheelersburg and Bellevue tangle at three while Washington Court House and Ashtabula, led by manager Brian Mehalic, fight their way through the losers bracket on Nappi Field. At six on Tulino Field, Avon battles Dover Gray.
On Tuesday, the winner of the Dover Gray-Avon game takes on Maumee at 3 p.m. on Nappi Field. Winners of the Washington Court House-Ashtabula game takes on the winner of the Bellevue-Wheelersburg game at 3 p.m. on Tulino Field.
Winners-bracket action moves along Tuesday at 6 p.m. Tulino Field hosts Hamilton and New Albany while Boardman and Guernsey County play on Nappi.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.