CAMBRIDGE — Living up to the past can be tough to accomplish, but the Mount Vernon 12-year-old All-Stars aren’t too worried.
Mount Vernon won its third Little League District 5 title in a row on Friday night in Cambridge, beating Southwest Licking, 13-2, in four innings. The All-Stars pounded out 14 hits with nine of the 12 team members notching hits.
“They say that defending a title is harder to do the second year, but I say it is even harder to do it a third time,” said Mount Vernon manager Shawn Carpenter. “Southwest Licking improved immensely from last year to this year, so to beat them twice and win this is great. It is a result of a lot of hard work by the kids.
“We came out tonight and just spanked the ball like we are capable of doing. We’ve been building toward this since these kids were 10-year-olds. This is the year you have the hopes of getting to the World Series. I’m just so proud of every one of them.”
Owen Carpenter picked up the win, throwing a no-hitter. Owen walked four and struck out eight. Both runs Southwest Licking scored were unearned.
“Owen pitched well,” said manager Carpenter. “Sometimes, with a big lead, the hardest thing to do is throw strikes. I thought his curveball was good tonight. Probably the best that I’ve seen it. That’s what really kept him in it. His fastball was a little off, but that was because he hasn’t really thrown much. He only threw 1 1/3 innings in the tournament before tonight because we really hadn’t needed him. It was really a great job.”
Mount Vernon hit Southwest Licking pitcher Cameron Johnson right from the start. Jarret Whitt led off with a single in the top of the first, and Owen followed with a double down the left-field line. Bryant Shellenbarger then followed with a three-run home run to right-center field, to put the All-Stars up early. Southwest Licking answered with one run in the bottom of the frame.
“I’m not surprised (we hit the ball so well),” said manager Carpenter. “We had a voluntary practice (Thursday) night and almost every one of them showed up. We tweaked a few things and got prepared mentally. They were just tearing the cover off the ball, so I had a feeling we were going to hit the ball tonight. One through nine we did, and we put the pressure on (Southwest Licking) right from the start.”
Shellenbarger and the rest of his teammates weren’t done there, however. The team batted around in the second inning, scoring five more runs. Darrick Hubbard singled and Austin Springer reached on an error in the second inning, but Hubbard was thrown out at home plate, trying to score after Springer was caught off second base after a single by Whitt. Owen then singled to load the bases with two outs, and Shellenbarger blasted a three-run double to left. Shellenbarger finished with six RBI.
“I was kind of nervous,” said Shellenbarger. “I was just looking for a pitch right down the pipe. The first one I got was a curveball. The other one was a fastball.”
Thomas Troy followed with a double to nearly the same place, scoring another run. Courtesy runner Logan Jones came around to score on an RBI single by Cody McNichols before the inning ended with an 8-1 lead.
“Our goal was to jump on them and get them down,” said Owen Carpenter.
Strong defensive play kept Southwest Licking off the board in the second inning, as Shellenbarger picked Cole Losoncy off at third and Owen successfully fielded a sacrifice bunt.
Johnson and his teammates set the All-Stars down in order in the third inning, getting three groundouts, but Mount Vernon did the same in the bottom of the inning. Then the All-Stars broke the game wide open in the top of the fourth.
Owen Carpenter walked to lead off the inning, and Shellenbarger singled to left. Jones then walked to load the bases with no outs, which brought an end to Johnson’s night on the mound. Losoncy relieved, but didn’t fare much better. Owen scored on a passed ball before Losoncy could get an out, and Shellenbarger came home on a throwing error. McNichols walked before Jacob Fry singled to score Jones.
Another throwing error by Southwest Licking allowed McNichols to score, and Micah Bolander singled to put two on. Springer then followed with an RBI single to center for a 13-2 lead. Losoncy walked Whitt to load the bases with one out, but a strikeout and a pop-up ended the threat.
Southwest Licking managed to plate one last run in the bottom of the fourth after Mitchell Lohr walked to lead off. Johnson replaced him as a courtesy runner. He moved around on a passed ball and a wild pitch, and eventually scored on another wild pitch. Owen Carpenter, however, limited the damage to one with a pair of strikeouts, and McNichols made a backhanded grab up the middle to end the game.
“Cody made a great play to get that last out,” said manager Carpenter.
“This is great; it is pretty exciting,” said Shellenbarger of the win. “We did pretty well.”
The victory advances the 12-year-olds to the Little League State Tournament, which begins on Saturday, July 24, in Elyria. Mount Vernon’s first game will be on Sunday, July 25, at 11 a.m.
“This is pretty awesome,” said Owen Carpenter. “We’ve just got to go up there and do our best.”
One thing is certain for the All-Stars. They plan to live up to the reputation earned by the Mount Vernon teams that have come before them.
“Each year, we’ve gotten a little farther,” manager Carpenter said. “The first year as 10-year-olds, we were just happy to be there. Last year, we ended up finishing third. This year, we are in it to win it. We know there are some good teams out there. When you step up to the state level, the margin for error gets smaller and you have to get a few breaks along the way.”