Dusters blank Hillsboro to claim State Title
On Saturday night, the Marshall County Dusters (13-2-1) captured their second straight Senior Babe Ruth State tournament title when they defeated the Hillsboro Outlaws 5-0 in the championship game at Joe George Field.
With Saturday's triumph, the Dusters recorded their eighth straight win and earned a spot in the Senior Babe Ruth Southeast Regional tournament, which will start on July 12 in Alexander City, AL.
"Our main goal was to make it to the Southeast Regional. We want to go down there and win it because we've never won it before," said Marshall County coach Mike Reese. "I want to thank our fans and the Walker family because they've been sponsoring us for a long time and help make all this possible."
Hillsboro had defeated Grassland 8-6 in the loser's bracket final earlier in the evening, but Duster starting pitcher Dylan McKnight arrested the Outlaw offense and racked up 10 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings of work while yielding just four hits and a walk.
"Dylan struggled a little bit the first two innings, but settled down after that," said Reese. "His breaking ball was effective once again and he did a good job of mixing in his fastball."
Marshall County's defense also aided McKnight's cause by turning a double play, while catcher Brandon Bush threw out a base runner on a steal attempt in the top of the first inning.
Bolstered by a four-run second inning, Marshall County finished with nine hits and a walk against Hillsboro starting hurler Grayson Holmes.
Cody Vernon and Matt Sharp both had two hits to pace the Dusters offensively with Vernon driving in one run. Aaron Thomason (1 RBI), J.B. Reese, McKnight (1 RBI), Aaron Hobbs, and Bubba Houghton (1 RBI) each had one hit for Marshall County as well
Dallas Gideon doubled to account for the Outlaws lone extra base hit of the contest, while Bryton Shoemake, Reed Johnson, and Holmes all singled.
Hillsboro left two runners on base in the top of the first inning before the Dusters took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the frame when Sharp scored on a RBI single by Thomason after singling and advancing to third on a Jesse Kilpatrick sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the second, Marshall County gave McKnight some more breathing room by pushing across four runs in the frame to open up a 5-0 advantage. Reese roped a triple into the right centerfield gap to start the inning before trotting home on a RBI double by McKnight. After driving in McKnight with a RBI single to make it 3-0, Vernon advanced to third on a Hobbs bunt single and an Outlaw throwing error. Houghton then plated Vernon with a sacrifice fly while Hobbs also scored on the play thanks to a throwing error by Hillsboro center fielder Tyler Jenkins.
The Outlaws had a chance to cut into the deficit in the top of the third and put runners on the corners with one out thanks to a Duster error and a single by Johnson, but McKnight snuffed out the threat by inducing Holmes to hit into a 6-3 double play.
McKnight then held Hillsboro hitless over the next three innings before working around a one-out double by Gideon in the top of the seventh to secure Marshall County's 5-0 victory.