By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
It’s been a long, grueling week at Cederquist Park on Tulino and Nappi Fields.
Teams from all 11 Ohio Little League district gathered their 11-12-year-old boys to decide who would take the state title for the 2013 season. Home runs were the norm for several teams and did play a big part in deciding the winner Sunday afternoon on Tulino Field.
However, beside the aforementioned long balls, two other factors which did not figure to be strong points for Hamilton West actually did come into play in huge ways as Hamilton completed its journey from rare turf, the loser’s bracket, to knock of New Albany in two games, 10-6 and 14-9, to win the state championship.
“I really have to give Caleb Owens some credit for showing some real heart pitching for us today,” Hamilton manager Tim Nichting said. “He did just a great job of keeping New Albany from getting its high-powered offense going in the last game.”
It was that high-powered offense of New Albany which had sent Hamilton into the loser’s bracket earlier in the week in dramatic fashion in a 10-9 slugfest on Ben Smith’s darkness-beating blast, but such a comeback was not to happen this day, although many were just waiting for it to happen again.
“I knew who the guys were on their team who could hit the ball,” Cameron Tenhundfeld said. “I wanted to keep them from getting their hitters rolling.”
He did yeoman’s job of doing it in the opener. Hamilton had to win that first game to play for a title, something it fully expected to be doing, as this was the third straight year this basic group of player had won a state championship.
It had taken the 9-10 trophy two years ago, and followed that up with the 10-11 title last season. It did some serious steamrolling in this week’s action at Cederquist Park, but won the title Sunday behind defense and pitching.
“We feel we can hit the ball pretty well, and we did today,” Nichting said. “I also have to tip my hat to the effort from Matthew Myers this afternoon, too. He kept them from getting rolling with their hitting, too.”
In the title game, Owens started on the hill and was the beneficiary of the normal effort from the Hamilton offense. Home runs from Gage Tetherford, Tenhundfeld (back to back), and Montana Allgaier, staked Hamilton to a fast 6-0 lead before New Albany had its first at bat.
In the start of the first contest Saturday that was delayed a day by rain, it had been New Albany with a six-run first frame that set the tone. Hamilton responded immediately with seven runs before rains came and halted the action.
Resuming from the point it was stopped, Tenhundfeld did not allow a run before the pitch-count rule halted his efforts after a he fanned his fifth hitter leading off the bottom of the sixth.
A three-run fifth inning, keyed by home runs from Allgaier and Clayton Detherage that opened the 7-6 Hamilton lead to its final place.
Allgaier’s first inning homer capped the big rally leading the title game, and although New Albany had chances to challenge, they didn’t string hits together or get bit hits as Myers kept them at bay by not issuing any walks. He fanned six.
Gage Retherford ripped a pair of 3-run homers to lead the attack in the title tilt, leading to six RBI, and Tenhundfeld was 3 for 3 with two runs on a pair of homers to go with three more RBI.
The title game saw seven homers, and when Jake Arenschield ripped a three run blast in the bottom of the sixth for New Albany, it provided a glimmer of hope which Myers quickly snuffed out with a ground ball to short and a strikeout to end the tournament.
“I thought it was important for us to finish the game off by scoring more runs,” Retherford said. “We definitely knew they could come back, so I am really glad I hit another homer.”
“We have to give Hamilton all the credit in the world,” New Albany manager George Arenschield said. “We knew coming in they were the team to beat, and they showed everybody why today. The rain hurt us yesterday because we couldn’t pitch out top pitcher today and they could, but there can be no excuses.
“These games were different from the game the other day. Their location of off-speed pitches today was great, and they kept us off balance all day. That game the other night was the best game I have ever seen, but we couldn’t get anything going today like we did then, and their pitching and defense made that happen.”
Tenhundfeld walked only one in the rain-delayed contest, and Myers didn’t issue a free pass in the title game. Payton Pennington as shortstop for Hamilton was flawless in eight fielding opportunities for Hamilton in both Sunday games, and that made sure New Albany would not get its offense rolling.
Throw in Tenhundfeld’s six-of-seven day at the dish with three homers led the way, but it was the overall defense and clutch pitching which earned this group of boys from Hamilton its third straight state title.
Sam Smith drilled a 3-run homer to cap the big first inning which began on Saturday, and Nick Shroyer went 3-4 with two runs and three RBI and a homer in the first inning in the title game. Jacob Snyder had a pair of hits, but even though New Albany was hitting the ball hard, it found Hamilton gloves all the time Sunday, and 11 Hamilton homers Sunday was too much to overcome.
Hamilton now advances to regional play, starting Thursday in Indianapolis.
A successful tournament all the way around, rain or no rain. Tournament director Frank Cole, while coordinating the event for the District 1 Ashtabula Little League, was quick to point out where the lion’s share of keeping the field in playing shape should go.
“This was a lot of work,” Cole said. “ I think the bulk of keeping it going with working on the fields should go to Jeff Bleil and his sons, Josh and Jake. You also need to give some special mention to Jim and Jared Kingston for their work on the fields, as well as the whole crew.
“Lisa (Boomhower) kept all the record-keeping going for us, and that happened smoothly ,even though her computer with all the tournament information in it crashed on Thursday. She was phenomenal.”
The rains could only slow things down, but not hamper a superlative effort by a lot of people.
Nothing could stop the Hamilton team.
Hail to thechamps.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.