MOUNT VERNON — In the last few weeks, the Mount Vernon 12-year-old All-Star team has shown a propensity for offense. The team bashed its way through the Memorial Classic, winning the championship on Saturday, and it picked up where it left off in the opening game of the Little League District 5 Tournament on Sunday.
Mount Vernon, which scored 79 runs in five Classic games, knocked off the Fredericktown All-Stars, 12-2, in a shortened four-inning game at Phillips Park.
“This is awesome; it is a real big win to start off the district like this,” said Mount Vernon manager Phil Arck. “J.D. (Orr) sets the pace and Ryan Fitzgerald is right behind him. All of the other kids are following suit right now. This is really big for our confidence, but we don’t want them to get too bigheaded. We have to keep working hard and I think the kids understand that.
“Having the momentum coming out of the Classic, and playing games three days in a row was great. This is a really talented bunch of kids. It is fun to watch them play.”
Fredericktown, as the visitor, went three up, three down in the first two innings, while Mount Vernon quickly built a lead. J.D. Orr led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and Alex Arck followed with a single to center. Orr came home on a passed ball four to Griffin Menke for the first Mount Vernon run. Menke took second on the play, and another passed ball advanced the runners, with Arck scoring. A groundout back to Fredericktown pitcher Brodhi Steel registered the first out, but then a fielder’s choice backfired on Fredericktown when neither runner was thrown out.
Tyler Galbraith followed with a sharp hit to short, which Fredericktown shortstop Braxton McQueen misplayed. The error scored Menke and kept the inning going for Nate Davis, who hit an RBI groundout for the fifth run of the inning.
“We were really focused tonight,” said Orr. “Even in warm-ups, we were hitting the ball really good. We were on fire. ... I think (winning the Classic) gave us a lot of confidence in our hitting and all around.”
With Greg Dennis pitching solid on the mound, Mount Vernon continued to assault the Fredericktown pitching in the second inning. Steel didn’t make it out of the second inning, as he ran out of pitches. Orr led off with a ground-rule double, moved to third on a passed ball and, after a flyout. scored on another passed ball. Menke and Ryan Fitzgerald then reached to put runners on for Galbraith, who hit an RBI single back up the middle off relief pitcher Devin Kessler. An error by Steel, who moved to short, scored Fitzgerald and Galbraith to give Mount Vernon a 9-0 lead.
Fredericktown finally broke out of its funk in the top of the third. After getting the first two outs on groundouts to short, Dennis began to run into a bit of trouble. An error left Chase Mowery safe, and the next pitch hit Kohl Perkins to put two on. Steel followed with an RBI double to left, scoring Mowery. Perkins scampered home on a passed ball to cut the lead to 9-2 as Dennis walked the bases loaded. An unassisted play at first by Kevin McClain ended the threat, however.
“It was tough, and the boys seemed to be nervous,” said Fredericktown manager Mike Steel. “Once we finally got a little bit going, we couldn’t hold the defense together. ... We used to (Mount Vernon jumping ahead). It seems like that’s how it happens. We came back hard, but we just didn’t have enough.”
Mount Vernon went to work to take back those runs in the bottom of the inning. Tyler Hedrick doubled to lead-off and then came around to score on two passed balls while Orr was at the plate. After Hedrick scored, Orr blasted a full-count pitch into the batting cages in center field, making it an 11-2 game. Kessler registered two outs before Fitzgerald doubled to left. A flyout to center field ended the threat, however.
“I was just looking for a base hit because when I try to hit a home run, I normally don’t hit it very well,” said Orr.
A double play kept Fredericktown in check in the top of the fourth, and Mount Vernon ended the game in the bottom of the inning. Galbraith singled and Jared Pryor was hit by a pitch to put two on, and a fielder’s choice by Dakota Back loaded the bases after Fredericktown failed to register an out. Hedrick then stepped up and hit a one-strike single to score Galbraith for the run-rule win.
There was a little confusion at the end of the fourth inning. Not realizing the score, Orr stepped into the batter’s box quickly, and before time could be called, hit what appeared to be a grand slam off Kessler. The runs were waived off, however, since the game technically ended with Hedrick’s RBI single.
With the win, Mount Vernon advances to face SouthWest Licking on Monday night at 6. New Albany will face Cambridge in the 8 p.m. game. Fredericktown, meanwhile, drops into the loser’s bracket and will play the loser of Monday’s New Albany-Cambridge contest on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“We’re going to work on our hitting and see if we can’t get the sticks rolling,” said manager Steel. That’s been our biggest problem all year — putting the bats on the ball consistently. ... We’ve got to get it all together and come back strong.”