Marshall County Stars earn 12-yr-old Cal Ripken District Title

Friday, July 15, 2011
The Marshall County Major League All-Stars won the Cal Ripken District 8 Tournament in Lewisburg, sending them to the state tournament, beginning Friday at Liberty Park in Franklin versus Warren County. Photo submitted

The Marshall County 12 year-old All-Star team recently captured the Cal Ripken District 8 Championship held at the Richard Cashion Sports Complex in Lewisburg.

The Stars raced through the tourney by outplaying formidable border foes Giles and Maury County. In their first game against Giles County, the hosts jumped out to a 10-0 lead through the first four innings only to have Giles battle back to score three runs in the fifth and five runs in the sixth to make it a very interesting finish.

Marshall County's scoring began in the second inning when Iendi Biggers reached base on a walk and then one pitch later, Jay Howard walloped a tape-measure blast homerun that cleared the left/center field fence with about 60 feet to spare.

After Jaquantice Haislip reached on a Giles County error, Will Johnson smacked another ball well beyond the center-field wall for a two-run homer to make it 4-0. The MC Stars erupted again in the fifth when they batted around scoring six runs. Hard hit balls by Thomas Hawkins, Ben Taylor, and Howard caused more Giles County errors, but the big blows in the frame was a pair of two-run doubles by Johnson and Biggers.

Will Johnson pitched an outstanding game for the Stars, only giving up two hits through four innings versus a hard-hitting Giles County squad.

Giles County tried to muster up a late rally, but they were silenced for good when Marshall County head coach Mike Bailey sent Howard to the mound to try to close out the game.

Howard's blazing fastball was on as he struck out Giles County's number two and three hitters to give the hard fought 10-8 victory to Marshall County.

Marshall County kept the momentum rolling in their second game on Saturday against Maury County, who had drawn an opening round bye.

Maury County must have watched the Stars hot bats versus Giles County, because it appeared their pitchers did not want to give the MC 9 anything to hit.

Maury County pitchers issued 11 walks and hit two MC batsmen during the course of the game, which played a big part in a 12-1 win. Maury County scored their only run in the first inning on two MC errors and a fielder's choice.

Howard started and pitched two innings for Marshall County, Jonathan Lykins pitched the next three, and Austin Wood mopped up in the sixth.

The three hurlers did not give up a hit the entire game, which was very impressive because the Maury County team later beat Giles County 11-1 in the elimination game as they bashed four 4 home runs.

Howard and Hawkins were the big hitters for MC in the 12-1 win with Howard smacking two homers in the game (a two-run dinger in the fourth and a solo shot in the sixth).

Hawkins, the Marshall County catcher, also hit a two-run opposite field blast in the sixth.

Because of their big 11-1 win over Giles, Maury County got another chance to face the MC Stars in the championship round on Sunday.

The one-loss Maury Stars would have to beat the undefeated local stars twice to secure the crown, but the MC team could not take the Maury team lightly after the way they handled Giles the night before.

Maury started their ace Cole Flatt on the mound while MC countered with their "bulldog" pitcher Will Johnson.

Marshall County plated one run in the top of the first when Howard led off the game with a walk before stealing second and third, and scoring on a Johnson sharp single to left field.

Maury County went three up, three down in their half of the first with Johnson only having to make seven pitches in the inning, which included a strike out, a fly ball out to left, and a weak ground ball back to Johnson who fired to first for the easy out.

The Stars scored three more in the second when first baseman Logan Bailey launched a towering solo home run over the right field wall.

Bailey's blast was followed by a line drive single up the middle by Austin Wood, who later scored on a single by Howard.

Howard again stole second and third and went home on a heads-up play as the Maury County catcher overthrew his pitcher on what should have been a routine throw back to the mound.

With the score 4-1, Maury managed one run in the bottom of the second on a single, a passed ball, and a ground ball to the right side that moved the runner to third, with that runner later scoring on a fielder's choice.

There was no scoring in the third or fourth inning as the fans witnessed some excellent pitching and good defensive plays from both teams.

Hawkins added another run to the board for Marshall County in the fifth by hitting his second home run of the tournament to make it a 5-1 ballgame.

Maury County tallied their second run in the fifth inning on a walk, a single, and a fielder's choice.

Marshall was held scoreless in the top half of the sixth, but with a three-run lead, they knew their job was to play defense to secure the win.

On the mound, Johnson had been very efficient through the first five innings by throwing only 61 pitches.

Knowing that he would be facing Maury's numbers 3, 4, and 5 hitters, the MC coaches still believed he had enough left in the tank to get the job done and left him in the game.

Maury's first batter reached base on an infield single between short and third and their bench was starting to come to life as they could feel some momentum shifting their way.

However, that momentum was very short lived.

On what was the most spectacular play of the game, Maury County's next batter hit a fly ball to medium left field, which shortstop Jay Howard went sprinting after because he knew leftfielder Jaquantice Haislip was playing deep.

As Howard was chasing the ball down, he jumped into the air to try to make the catch. The ball tipped off the edge of his glove and was heading for the ground, but the quick-handed Haislip grabbed the ricochet and instinctively fired the ball to first base, catching the base runner too far off the bag for a double play.

The next batter grounded out to second to seal the victory and the district title.

The 12-yr-old Stars will be competing in the eight-team Cal Ripken State Tournament, which is being held at Liberty Park in Franklin. The Stars open up with Warren County Friday night at 8:00 p.m.

The winner of this tourney advances to the SE Regional in Aiken, South Carolina.