For the second straight year, the Elks (11-3) denied Marshall Medical Center (10-4) the Marshall County Babe Ruth title on the final day of the season by defeating MMC 6-5 Saturday night in the league tournament championship game.
Having won two out of three games against the Elks during the regular season, Marshall Medical Center held a 5-2 lead through the first five innings of play and appeared to be on the verge of ending the Elks' long championship run.
Things, however, went awry for MMC in the top of the sixth, as the Elks crossed home plate four times in the frame to pull ahead 6-5 before escaping a bases loaded jam in the bottom half of the inning to hold on for the one-run victory.
"We were underdogs today, but in a one day championship game anything can happen," said Elks manager Steve Hobbs.
Longtime Marshall Medical Center manager Mike Mills, meanwhile, was hoping to end his tenure with MMC in storybook fashion, but was gracious in defeat.
"We wanted it pretty bad because this is my last year coaching Babe Ruth and I sure would have liked to gone out on top, but the Elks played great tonight," said Mills. "Give them credit, they outlasted us. The just flat out outlasted us."
Marshall Medical center out hit the Elks 7-4 and finished with a 7-4 edge in walks, but were hurt by numerous defensive miscues and committed seven errors overall, which led to all six Elk runs.
Ryan Richardson accounted for half of the Elks' hits, going 2-3 with 1 RBI and a run scored, while Dakota Fagan had a triple, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Brandon Bush also had a hit and stole two bases for the Elks.
Cody Vernon and Mikey Adams both had a pair of hits and a RBI to pace MMC at the plate, while John Brent Reese, Hunter Thomas, and Hayden McMahon each had a single and a walk with Reese driving in two runs.
Relief pitcher Jacob Graves earned the victory for the Elks and allowed only one run over 3 2/3 innings while scattering five hits and four walks to go along with four strikeouts.
Elks starting hurler Matthew Callender lasted 3 1/3 innings, yielding four runs on two hits and three walks.
Vernon, meanwhile, started the game on the hill for MMC and allowed two unearned runs on two hits and two walks while registering five strikeouts.
Despite racking up six strikeouts in three innings of relief work on the mound, Adams suffered the loss for Marshall Medical Center, giving up four unearned runs on two hits and two walks.
Marshall Medical Center was in the giving mood early on, as the Elks scored a run in the top of the first inning without the benefit of the hit to grab a 1-0 lead. Jesse Kilpatrick drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on two MMC errors before racing home on a passed ball.
Marshall Medical Center tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Adams drove in Reese with a RBI triple, but the Elks took advantage of more shoddy defense by MMC in the second and tallied a run on a walk, a passed ball, and an error to pull ahead 2-1.
Vernon snuffed out a couple of Elk scoring threats over the next two innings, before Marshall Medical Center got their offense rolling in the bottom of the fourth and pushed across four runs in the frame to seize a 5-2 lead. Following a leadoff walk by Able Singleton, Vernon plated Singleton with a triple into right field prior to coming home on a Jay Murphy RBI groundout. Andrew Giles and McMahon then sandwiched two walks around a single by Thomas to load the bases with one out before Reese knocked in Giles and Thomas with a single into centerfield.
The Elks, though, came storming back in the sixth and notched four runs in the frame to claim a 6-5 advantage. After striking out Aaron Houghton to start the inning, Adams fanned Jacob Griffis, but Griffis reached base when the Marshall Medical Center catcher was unable to hold on to the third strike and made an errant throw to first. Graves was hit by a pitch before Richardson drove in Griffis with a two-out RBI single to make it 5-3. Fagan then drove in Graves and Richardson with a two-run triple prior to scoring the go ahead run on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the sixth, MMC loaded the bases with two outs, but Graves retired Vernon on an infield pop up to escape the inning unscathed.
That proved to be the final scoring threat for Marshall Medical Center, as Graves worked around a one-out walk by Thomas to close out the Elks' 6-5 triumph.