MOUNT VERNON — Timely hitting and strong defense led Exchange Club to a pair of wins on Friday night and forced a second deciding championship game in the Major League City Tournament. Exchange defeated Rotary, 4-3, in the Loser’s bracket final, and then run-ruled Central Ohio Fabricators, 11-1, in the championship game at Phillips Park.
A run scored by Jordan Langdon in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 1 gave Exchange the boost it needed to win, and the offense carried over against COF. Exchange belted out 11 hits, including five doubles, against COF to gain the victory. The second championship game will be played at 6 p.m. today at Phillips Park.
“This feels real good,” said Exchange coach Phil Arck. “These guys have worked real hard and what’s great about is a couple of guys at the bottom of our batting order really stepped up tonight. Jordan Langdon got a hit and scored the winning run, and he probably only had about five or six hits all year. What a memory that is going to be for him. It feels great.
“We were a little flat against Rotary, but we were able to beat a real good team there. ... These guys rose to the occasion.”
Exchange wasted little time in the championship game. J.D. Orr led off with a double to left and moved up on a passed ball. Alex Arck then walked and stole second uncontested. Both runners moved up a base on another passed ball, with Orr posting the first run. Ethan Rummel followed with an RBI single. Rummel later moved to third on a wild pitch and came around to score on a passed ball, giving Exchange a 3-0 lead.
“I think the kids just got focused, and when we got the three runs in the top of the first inning, I think that’s what did it,” said coach Arck. “They got charged up a little bit, and got excited. They came out and hit the ball; they did their job, and (COF) went through a few pitchers.”
Arck, meanwhile, was dominant on the mound. Unfortunately, he pitched 59 pitches in the game against Rotary and was limited to 85 total. He struck out the side in the first and second innings before having to leave the game. He left with a 6-0 lead, though, as Exchange put three more runs on the board in the top of the second.
A walk to Matt Whitaker and a single by Orr put runners on, and Arck followed through with a two-RBI single. Rummel then hit an RBI single to plate Arck, who had moved up to second on the throw. In the top of the third, Whitaker was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and after another double by Orr moved him to third, Rummer hit into a fielder’s choice to score Whitaker.
“No one really thought we had a chance,” said Orr. “We normally don’t hit like that, so coming out there and score runs early helped us. ... We were confident from the beginning.”
Orr relieved Arck on the mound to start the third, but he too was limited after throwing 45 pitches against Rotary. He got COF out 1-2-3 in the third inning, and Exchange added to its lead in the top of the fourth. Hunter Davis doubled to lead off, and after a strikeout, Jaret Gastin laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third. The ball was misplayed, however, leaving Gastin safe and allowing Davis to post an 8-0 lead.
“My 12-year-old (Tyler Galbraith, who started the game on the mound) struggled a little bit tonight and we just couldn’t get it done,” said COF coach Dan Trace. “We came in way too confident. We played them earlier this week and we run-ruled them, so we expected the same thing, but that team is too good. ... We just didn’t get it done. Our big boys didn’t step up when we needed them.”
Central Ohio Fabricators’ bats finally began to wake up in the bottom of the fourth and they worked Orr deeper into the count. Galbraith walked to lead off, moved to second and then third on wild pitches, and then came home after an errant throw back to the Orr on a ball four to Tyler Hedrick. Alex Sapp then was hit by a pitch to put two runners on with one out, but a fly ball to Alex Drews in right and a heads up play by Drews ended the inning. Drews caught the second out and quickly threw to first, catching Sapp off the bag for the third out.
The Exchange defense didn’t stop there, however, and neither did its hitting. Exchange took back the COF run in the top of the fifth as Orr, Arck and Rummel all reached to lead off the inning. Rummel’s single scored Orr, and back-to-back fielder’s choice plays by Casey McNamara and Davis scored Arck and Rummel, respectively. That gave Exchange the lead it needed to end the game early, provided it could hold onto it.
Orr started the inning, but lasted only three pitches do to the pitch count, and after some discussion and interpretation of the Little League rules, Rummel came on to replace him. Orr moved to center field, while Joey Wright came in to catch. Rummel finished the first batter off with a strikeout before walking Cole Parker. Then, in a play worthy of ESPN’s Sportscenter, Arck, playing shortstop, turned a double play to end the inning. He fielded a ball hit up the middle by Trace Burden, stepped on second and then threw on to first to advance Exchange to today’s finale.
Arck, Orr and Rummel combined to no-hit Central Ohio Fabricators in the game. Orr led the Exchange offense, going 4-for-4 with two doubles. Arck was 1-for-2 with three runs scored and two RBI; Rummel finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI; and Davis went 2-for-4 with a run scored and one RBI.
“Our pitching was awesome, but I think the main thing was the runs we got, the lead we got,” coach Arck said. “The pitching just backed that up. They really did a great job shutting them down, and we made some great defensive plays.”
For Exchange, the wins mean the world. For COF, it just means they have to work a little harder in the second championship game.
“I’m really proud to see the way we fought back,” said coach Arck. “We beat two of the best teams in the league today. That is amazing. ... We are going to give it 100 percent. We just hope to play like we did in the second game and not the first. We’re going to give it our best effort.”
“I felt we were close. We just ran out of time,” said Trace. “We get another shot at it, so that’s the good thing. I don’t think they have a lot of pitching left and we’ll have our big boy so, hopefully, that’s in our favor.”