Bombers cruise to state crown
Bombers sweep field for Southeast Regional berth
Marshall County has a State Babe Ruth baseball championship to celebrate.
The local program's 14-under all-star team finished off a three-game sweep of the tournament on Sunday in Cookeville by whipping host Putnam County 9-1.
It was Marshall County's first title in the division since 2006.
And it wasn't close. The Bombers won their first two games by the mercy rule before cruising in the final against last year's state 13-year-old champions.
"And we didn't really hit the ball like we can," said Marshall County manager Greg Bradford, whose team earned a spot in next week's Southeast Regional in Jupiter, Florida.
No matter, the Bombers were still able to put runs across the plate. They opened with a 18-1 romp against Fentress on Friday before whipping Bellevue 13-3 on Saturday.
Marshall County capitalized on pitching woes and miscues, particularly in the first two games, to build insurmountable leads in the shortened victories.
"We had several walks and scored more on (opponent) mistakes than we did from hitting the ball," Bradford said. "We got a lot of those early runs in the first game on walks, then somewhere in the third or fourth inning we started hitting like we can. We started slow in the second game, but got going a little quicker than Friday."
The Bombers returned to form at the plate in the title game while also capitalizing on Putnam's pitching problems. The hosts walked in three runs while the Bombers got to top starter Grayson Randolph for eight runs on seven hits.
Jaylen Smith was perfect in four at-bats, including a two-run double, to lead Marshall County's hitters against Putnam. Dylan Pendley finished 3-for-4 with a double while Dustin Brashear went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
On the mound
Hunter Haurez earned the victory on the mound in the clincher, allowing a run on five hits with three walks, a hit batter and a pair of strikeouts in four innings. Ethan Mealer finished up with a just one hit over the final three innings.
The two split the second game with Mealer the starter and winner in that contest with Haurez taking over in relief. The Bombers took the committee approach against Fentress, runner-up in the district to Putnam, with Dustin Brashear (2), Blake Biestlow (1) and Austin Grubb (2) splitting the five innings.
"All the pitching was good," Bradford said.
The defense wasn't too bad, either, particularly from center fielder Mitchell Ford.
"We played some great defense up there," the manager said. "We turned some double plays Ford saved us some runs. He made a diving catch that I joked with him that I'd seen it on ESPN's Top 10 plays.
"He looks like he plays the whole outfield sometimes the way he covers ground."
To the regional
Marshall County will be one of eight teams in the regional. Others will be from Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and the Caribbean.
No Marshall County team has ever won the regional.
"We have a chance to make some history," Bradford said.
The teams report on Tuesday for a "get-acquainted" day that will include an opening ceremony as well as a home run derby.
In the meantime, the club has a couple of things to work on.
On the field, it'll center on hitting.
"We'll have some time in the batting cages for sure," Bradford said. "We didn't hit it like we normally do. We started slow. It took us a couple of innings before we hit like we know how.
"We need to be solid all the way through the game. We hit a lot of pop-ups."
Off the field, the team will be working on raising some funds to defray the cost of the trip. The first of those scheduled is Thursday beginning at 4 p.m. at Shoney's.
"We have to get busy on some ideas to raise some money," he said. "It's going to cost a lot to get down there and stay a while."