TALLMADGE — In perhaps their most impressive outing yet, the Mount Vernon 12-year-old All-Stars overcame the rain and knocked off Avon, 10-0, in four innings at the 2009 Ohio State Little League Tournament, Wednesday, in Tallmadge. A three-run first inning set the tone, and a six-run third blew the game, which was delayed for nearly two hours due to heavy rain, wide open.
It was Mount Vernon’s most complete game this postseason with every player contributing in some fashion. The offense pounded six hits, the defense made no errors and turned a double play in the top of the fourth to preserve the run-rule, and the pitching was dominant.
“This was a great win for the kids, a total team effort,” said Mount Vernon manager Phil Arck. “The kids were resilient tonight. This was a really good showing.”
The weather could have played a major role, but Mount Vernon found a way to stay loose and focused.
“I was pretty concerned about (the rain delay),” said manager Arck. “The kids were getting a little complacent sitting in the dugout, and they were having a water fight. We told them they better get focused because Avon was a very physical-looking team. ... We sent the kids on a little jog before the game, and they got fired up.”
Ryan Fitzgerald started on the mound for Mount Vernon and looked the part. He allowed just one single and one walk in the first three innings of play, striking out six. He pitched to one batter in the fourth and allowed an infield single, but hit the 45-pitch count, and traded bases with Kevin McClain, who had come on to play first.
“I actually didn’t know if I was going to pitch well, but J.D. (Orr) kept me going,” said Fitzgerald. “I just threw the best I could.”
McClain gave up a single and a walk to load the bases and set up a force play situation at any bag. That worked in Mount Vernon’s favor as Jarred Pryor and Orr turned a 4-2-3 double play, getting both the runner at home and the batter at first. Then after another walk, McClain got pinch hitter Alex Guzik to fly out to Nathan Davis in center to end the game.
“Ryan Fitzgerald did a great job tonight, and Kevin McClain came in and finished it for him,” said manager Arck. “Coach Dennis and I were leaning toward leaving Ryan in there to finish the game, so we left him out there in the fourth inning, but after the hit, coach Orr made the call and I trust his instincts. We made the right call. Kevin did his job and Jarred Pryor made that play to stop the run, and J.D. finished it off with the double play. Then Nathan Davis had a great catch in center field to end the game. It was a great effort all the way around.”
“I was just trying to throw strikes, but I struggled to get it done,” said McClain. “It was a great catch by Nate Davis to end the inning.”
Mount Vernon’s offense had plans of its own in the game. Orr started off the bottom of the first with a single, took second on a wild pitch. He later scored when Avon pitcher Kevin Maloney missed the first baseman and threw the ball down the line on a hit by Alex Arck. Arck took second on a passed ball, and Griffin Menke and Tyler Galbraith each walked to load the bases. Lucas Zambori followed with a full-count walk to force in Arck with the second run. A fielder’s choice by Davis erased Menke at home plate, but an error by catcher Cory Ohradzansky allowed Galbraith to score. The inning ended on a groundout and Mount Vernon ahead, 3-0.
The second inning proved more opportunities for Mount Vernon to add to its lead. It capitalized on one when Orr singled to center with one out. Fitzgerald followed with a single to right and stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Arck, who grounded out but picked up an RBI. Maloney ended the inning with a strikeout.
With a comfortable lead, the real damage came in the bottom of the third inning. Galbraith reached on an error to lead off, and after a strikeout, Davis singled. Another error at third loaded the bases, putting Greg Dennis on, and Tyler Hedrick followed with a four-pitch walk to force in a run. Orr hit a run-scoring groundout to make it a 6-0 game, but Mount Vernon wasn’t done there.
“Once we got to around six runs, I was pretty comfortable, but when it was 4-0, I was still pretty concerned that we were going to let up,” manager Arck said. “That is one thing this team has done a couple of times. Today, we never let up.”
Doing what they do best, the All-Stars continued to pour it on with two outs. Fitzgerald hit a two-run single to right and took second on the throw to the plate. Arck followed with an RBI double and moved to third on a wild pitch. Menke then walked and moved up on a wild pitch, which allowed Arck to race home ahead of the tag. McClain pinch hit for Galbraith and walked himself before a groundout ended the inning. That, for all intensive purposes, put the game away with Mount Vernon ahead, 10-0, though Avon tried to stage its comeback in the top of the fourth inning.
“We had saw Hamilton’s fast pitcher and we knew we could hit him so we just pretended that was him pitching,” said Davis. “This is really big because we want to win the championship.”
Orr and Fitzgerald each finished 2-for-3, with Fitzgerald scoring twice and Orr once. Arck had two RBI and scored twice, and Galbraith also scored twice. Avon managed just three hits in the game.
“We’ve got a strong team,” said Fitzgerald. “We can all get it done.”
With the win, Mount Vernon eliminated Avon from the tournament and avenged a loss dating back to 2007. Avon knocked Mount Vernon out of the 10-year-old state tournament that year.
The win also moves Mount Vernon in the state semifinal tonight, where it will face North Canton. North Canton, despite a sixth-inning rally, fell to Hamilton West Side, 12-7, on Wednesday night. The winner advances to play Hamilton West Side in the championship on Friday. Both games start at 6 p.m.
“North Canton is going to be ready for us,” said manager Arck. “We’ve got to be ready for them. We are sitting pretty good with our pitching. (Alex Arck) is available, Hedrick and Galbraith are both available. We’ve really got a lot of pitching depth, so I think we can do this. We just have to take it one game at a time.”