SPARTA — Two down, two to go.
The Knox County Royals, representing Mount Vernon Post 136, are two wins away from their second straight American Legion District 5 championship.
On Saturday, the Royals took their first two steps by demolishing Utica Post 92, 8-1, after knocking off Marysville Post 79, 4-3, at Highland Community Park.
“I’m pleased with how we did,” said Mount Vernon head coach Mike King. “We got two wins today to put us in the winners’ bracket final. That’s where you want to be.”
Mount Vernon, which had lost three straight going into the tournament, had struggled with pitching and defense.
Neither were a problem on Saturday.
The Royals received classic performances on the mound from starting pitchers Nick Hoar and Shawn Maxwell in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Maxwell, seeing his first action in weeks, shook off the effects of his knee injury to go seven innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out seven. He allowed one earned run.
“It’s been awhile,” Maxwell said following the game. “Getting to throw always feels nice.”
Tyler Berger came on for two innings of near-perfect relief, walking one while striking out two.
Mount Vernon’s defense came through when needed. Utica’s best opportunity to climb into contention came in the sixth when, down by the score of 7-1, the team loaded the bases with one out. Maxwell got Devin Carr to pop out to the catcher, then Michael Millat to harmlessly ground out to third.