MOUNT VERNON — With each passing
game, the Mount Vernon 12-year-old All-Stars continue to prove they are their
For the second day in a row, Mount Vernon run-ruled its opponent in the Little League District 5 Tournament at Phillips Park. Facing Southwest Licking, Mount Vernon scored eight first-inning runs and coasted to a 16-6 four-inning win. Southwest Licking put up a fight, cutting the lead to 11-6 in the top of the fourth, but a five-run bottom of the inning, capped with a two RBI single by Alex Arck sealed the victory.
“This feels good,” said Arck. “I haven’t been hitting that well; I’ve been struggling a lot. I just kept my eye on the ball and hit it.”
“Getting the quick lead was a factor,” said Mount Vernon manager Phil Arck. “The way the boys are hitting right now, it knocks a team down. That was a resilient team right there, though. They kept coming after us. They didn’t lose their composure at all. We kept pouring it on and, when we really needed it, we came through. That was big for (Alex) because he’s been struggling just a hair.”
Southwest Licking struck first, posting a single run in the top of the first. Luke Loevegoth hit a one-out double to put a runner on. He then stole third before coming home on a Mount Vernon error, which allowed Garrett Grover to reach. Doug Conner then singled before Mount Vernon pitcher Tyler Hedrick ended the inning with a strikeout.
Looking for an answer, Mount Vernon gave it. J.D. Orr doubled to lead off for the second straight game. Arck hit a sacrifice bunt to move Orr to third and Orr raced home on a passed ball during Griffin Menke’s at-bat. Mount Vernon wasn’t done, however. Menke walked and Ryan Fitzgerald doubled to right to keep the inning going. Southwest Licking starter Jake Chenault notched a strikeout in the next at-bat and looked close to getting out of the inning, but control problems came into play. Chenault walked three straight batters, forcing in Menke and Fitzgerald. An error then allowed Tyler Galbraith and Nate Davis to come home. Jarred Pryor, who had walked earlier, scored on a passed ball before Orr hit a 1-1 pitch to deep center field. Hedrick and Orr crossed the plate to make it an 8-1 lead.
The second inning was relatively uneventful with Southwest Licking going down in order and Mount Vernon only registering one hit. That silence ended in the top of the third, however. Back-to-back leadoff home runs by Chenault and Loevegoth cut into the Mount Vernon lead, and a one-out single by Grover and fielding error added more pressure on Hedrick. Grover moved to third on a passed ball, but Hedrick settled in and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Mount Vernon added to its lead in the bottom of the third, thanks in part to a little more wildness by Chenault. He walked Lucas Zambori and Hedrick with one out before leaving the game in favor of Eric Spencer. Spencer came in and, facing Orr, avoided damage on the first four pitches. The fifth pitch, however, Orr blasted to deep center once again for his second home run of the game and third in two days. Spencer got out of the inning, but the damage was done and Mount Vernon led 11-3.
“It was really nice to see (everyone hitting),” said Orr. “We need to keep it up the rest of the tournament.”
Southwest Licking didn’t give up, however. They continued battle back. A lead-off walk turned into an RBI after a passed ball and a fielder’s choice put Griffin Hall on third base. A.C. Gollett then hit an RBI single to drive in Hall, and brought up Chenault.
Manager Arck had contemplated pulling Hedrick at the start of the inning in hopes of saving him for another day, but the decision was made to stick with him. Chenault made the most of it. Chenault stepped in and blasted the first pitch he saw over the right-center field fence to make it an 11-6 game. Hedrick swapped places with Fitzgerald at third, and Fitzgerald got out of the inning despite giving up a triple to Zach Derugen.
“It was a tough decision,” said manager Arck. “Probably pulling Tyler a little sooner would have helped him out, just because their first three or four batters were timing him up pretty well. He kept everybody else fairly off balance. Ryan Fitzgerald did a good job of coming in and picking Tyler up, which was great for him. We probably should have just started Ryan that inning. We are learning as we go.”
Now faced with a much tighter game, manager Arck was faced with a daunting task — play the pitching game. Little League rules state that if a pitcher throws more than 20 pitches, he cannot pitch the next day and Fitzgerald was at 11 already. The only way he wouldn’t have to is if his team ended it in the bottom of the fourth, and with that, manager Arck told his team, “Let’s go get this.”
Fitzgerald led off his half of the fourth with a double down the right-field line. A groundout moved him to third, and a single by Galbraith drove him home. Davis then singled to left, and Zambori followed with an RBI double down the left-field line. A fielding error loaded the bases with Hedrick reaching, and brought Orr back up to the plate. With the bases loaded and a 2-0 count, Orr was looking for something he could drive. He got that, but a great play by Grover at first ended Orr’s hit streak. A run still scored, however, and Orr finished with six RBI on the day. That brought up Alex Arck, who was hitless. Arck ended the game with an two-RBI single to right-center on the first pitch he saw.
“This wasn’t the strongest pitching we’ve saw, but it wasn’t bad either,” said Orr. “I was just thinking base hit. It wasn’t a hit, but it got the job done.”
With the win, Mount Vernon advances to a Wednesday date in the winner’s bracket final against Cambridge. The game will be played at 8 p.m. at Phillips Park, following a loser’s bracket semifinal at 6 p.m.
“We’ll have to work hard just to stay ready and focused,” said Orr. “We want to come out on top.”
“We’re going to practice (today) and that is going to be real important,” said manager Arck. “We’ve got to keep them down to earth and level-headed, and get them ready to play. We’re going to go over our fielding and try to get these guys really focused for the next game.”