In July 30 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Sports Editor
Behind solid defense and timely hitting, Russell County captured the state championship Tuesday night after sweeping through four games in the 15-year-old East Kentucky Babe Ruth state tournament at Veteran's Park in Lexington.
The all-star team, which is coached by Richard Bennett, David Aaron and Josh Popplewell, defeated Ashland, Southeastern Lexington and South Lexington twice to bring the state title home to Russell County. Many of these same players were on the state championship 14-year-old Babe Ruth team from a year ago.
Between 60 and 80 Russell County fans traveled to Lexington to witness the final victory, a 5-0 win over South Lexington.
"It has been a privilege," said Coach Richard Bennett. "It is easy to coach talent like that."
He said last year was an honor to win the title but to have a repeat, of sorts, was an unbelievable experience.
"It's like a dream come true to win these games in the fashion we have," he said.
The team advanced their way to the double-elimination state tournament by winning the District 5 tournament at the Lindsey Wilson College baseball complex earlier this month. Representing the 5th district, Russell County took on Ashland last Thursday in the tournament's opening round.
Russell County had 10 hits and scored 13 runs to get the win over the District 7 winner, 13-0. Russell County was led at the plate by C.J. Bray, Hunter Best, Tyler Robertson, Blake Aaron and Roger Brumley, who each had two RBI in the game. Both Caleb Russell and Justin Cox had one RBI in the opening game.
Caleb Russell picked up the victory for Russell County while Brumley relieved him and struck out five.
The win matched Russell County up with District 4 champ South Lexington on Sunday.
The Lexington team battled hard but were no match for the Russell County All-Stars as the picked up another victory, this time by a score of 6-1.
Russell County outhit Southeast Lexington 12-3 in the game while tough pitching by Taylor Hutchison and Brumley helped to secure the victory.
Tyler Robertson had two RBI for Russell County while Hutchison, Evan Selby and Garret Stephens all had one run batted in. Eight Russell County players managed to get at least one hit in the victory.
That win matched up Russell County with tournament host Southeastern Lexington on Monday afternoon, a team that had defeated Hikes Point, Johnson County and Frankfort, so far.
Taylor Hutchison's three-run homerun helped propel Russell County to victory in the game. Best, Aaron, Stephens and Tyler Hayes all had RBIs in the game.
Tyler Robertson got the victory on the mound for Russell County while Russell and Best relieved him in the game's final innings.
The victory set up a Tuesday night meeting with South Lexington, whom Russell County had defeated earlier in the tournament.
The game was neck-in-neck until Hutchison belted another homerun, this time a two-run blast to put the All-Stars out in front, 2-0. Hutchison also had two other hits in the game.
Garret Stephens and Tyler Hayes also had RBIs in the game, which Russell County won 5-0, giving them the title.
Perhaps no one played better outfield defense in the tournament than Russell County center fielder, Evan Selby. Selby, whom Bennett called a "dynamite center fielder" made key catch after key catch in the tournament, some with amazing acrobatics that wowed the crowd. Best picked up the victory on the mound while starter Caleb Russell pitched three scoreless innings. Brumley came in and got the last three outs to cap off the victory.
Bennett said this may be his last time coaching a team and that it was sweet to get such a victory at the state level.
"I've been with most of these kids since they were eight years old," he said. "It's going to be tough once it is over."
Bennett said he couldn't have asked for a better group of young men to coach.
"It wasn't just any one of the kids, it was a team of 13 that got the victory and all 13 contributed," he said.
"Our infield was solid," he said. "We had a couple of double plays and our catcher did great as well, I'm really proud of them."
The champions were taken from the field in a stretch Hummer limousine with much fanfare and treated to a meal before heading home.
The team now advances to play this coming weekend and next week in Mattoon, Illinois in the Ohio Valley Babe Ruth national regional against teams from this state, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan in hopes of reaching the 2009 15-year-old Babe Ruth World Series.
"We anticipate a lot of tough teams," he said. "Last year we got a good look at a lot of the teams and saw that we could compete with them and beat them."
He said the goal was to defeat Youngstown, Ohio, who was runners-up in the Babe Ruth World Series last year as 14-year-olds and defeated Russell County in regional play last year.
"I think we got the key components now that we can run with them," he said.
Team members of the 15-year-old East Kentucky Babe Ruth state champions are Blake Aaron, Tyler Robertson, Evan Selby, Garret Stephens, Jalen Bennett, Caleb Russell, C.J. Bray, Taylor Hutchison, Hunter Best, Kyle Gehring, Tyler Hayes, Roger Brumley and Justin Cox.
Congratulations on the title and good luck in Mattoon from the Times Journal and the Russell County News.