In July 24-30 Issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Sports Editor
Russell County was crowned state champions Monday night after sweeping through four games in the 14-year-old Babe Ruth East Kentucky state tournament in Lexington.
The all-star team, which is coached by Richard Bennett, David Aaron and Josh Popplewell, defeated state powers Frankfort, Southeast Lexington and Louisville Highview twice at Veteran’s Park to bring the title home to Russell County.
Around 80 Russell Countians traveled to Lexington to witness the crowning moment.
“As a coach, I’d never been a part of a state tournament like this,” Bennett said. “It was a great experience.”
Bennett, whose son Jalen is a member of the team, said his team had the willingness to learn. “They do pretty much whatever I ask them to do,” he said.
“Most of them have been together since they were eight years old when we put them together as a coach-pitch all-star team and just took them and ran with them, tournament after tournament, and won several big tournaments against big schools and towns with them.”
But, none bigger than their most recent.
The team advanced their way to the double-elimination state tournament by winning the District 5 tournament at Laker Field earlier this month. Representing the 5th district, Russell County took on Frankfort last Thursday in the tournament’s opening round.
Russell County had nine hits and scored six runs to capture the win over the District 8 winner, 6-3. Leading the way for Russell County was Blake Aaron with three hits, Evan Selby with two RBI and Caleb Russell and Garret Stephens each with one RBI.
Caleb Russell got the victory for Russell County while Hunter Best picked up the save.
The win then matched Russell County up with perennial power and District 4 champ Southeast Lexington last Friday.
Both teams made play after play in the hard fought victory as it took eight innings to put away the pesky Lexington squad, 5-4.
Russell County outhit Southeast Lexington 13-4 in the game while the District 4 winner made four crucial errors, helping secure the victory for Russell County.
Tyler Robertson had two RBI for Russell County while Hunter Best had one run batted in. Eight Russell County players managed to get at least one hit in the victory.
Starting pitcher Tyler Robertson pitched well for Russell County while relief man Hunter Best picked up the victory.
On Sunday, Russell County matched up with Highview, a team from Louisville that had defeated Clark County and Ashland, so far. The District 20 champs posed another tough outing for Russell County.
Tyler Robertson’s three RBIs helped propel Russell County to victory in the game. Blake Aaron scored three of his team’s four runs to help get the win.
Jalen Bennett got the victory on the mound for Russell County. Caleb Russell earned the save.
The two teams met up again on Monday night with Highview needing to win two games in a row to knock off Russell County, but it wasn’t to be as Russell County shot out to an early lead and went on to win the game, 9-5, behind the pitching of Russell.
Jalen Bennett had three hits in the victory while Evan Selby had two. Tyler Robertson, Garret Stephens, Bennett and Selby each had two runs batted in each in the victory.
For the tournament, Russell County’s highest batting average went to Blake Aaron with .545 followed closely by by Tyler Robertson with a .538 average.
Robertson also led the team in RBIs with seven and doubles with two. Evan Selby hit over .400 at .417 for the tournament with four RBIs as well.
Garet Stephens hit .333 while Jalen Bennett hit .286.
Caleb Russell went 2-0 for Russell County with a 3.32 earned run average while striking out 11 in the tournament.
Robertson also fanned 10 batters in the tourney as well. Bennett and Best also combined for seven strikeouts and two wins.
The champions were welcomed back to Russell County Monday night with a victory parade down US 127 through both Russell Springs and Jamestown.
The team now advances to play August 1-5 in Shelbyville, Ind. in the Ohio Valley Babe Ruth regional against teams from this state, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan in hopes of reaching the 2008 14-year-old Babe Ruth World Series. That series is slated for August 16-23 in Quincy, Massachusetts, just south of Boston.
“I told them that just showing up wasn’t good enough,” Bennett said. “We’re in it to win it and I think we’re very capable of doing it.”
He lauded his team’s pitching, hitting and speed. He’ll need all those factors next week.
“I think we’ve got a real good chance,” he said.
Team members of the 14-year-old Babe Ruth East Kentucky state champions are Blake Aaron, Tyler Robertson, Evan Selby, Garret Stephens, Jalen Bennett, Caleb Russell, C.J. Bray, Gabe Martin, Hunter Best and Ethan Pike.
Congratulations on the title and good luck in Shelbyville from the Times Journal and the Russell County News.