League 3 advances to state tourney
HUNTINGTON -- The battle for a berth in the 10-11 Little League State Tournament was anything but a holiday for League 3 and Vinson on Sunday afternoon.
The teams battled through intense heat and pressure to a tie after six full innings before League 3 scored three runs in the top of the seventh to earn an 11-8 win over Vinson in the consolation game.
With the win, League 3 advances to the state tournament, which begins July 16 in Madison.
"We knew coming in that they could hit the ball. The best thing we could do was put kids in that could throw strikes and play defense," League 3 coach John Dennison said. "They hit the ball in some gaps, but we did our work on defense when the ball was hit to us."
League 3 took advantage of an error to highlight a two-out rally in the top of the seventh that produced three runs, including two on back-to-back doubles by Jack Hiner and Tanner Stevens. J.J. Mercer later produced a run-scoring single for his third hit of the day to produce a three-run cushion.
That was more than enough for pitcher Jacob Straub, who relieved starter Cole Dennison and shut down the Vinson offensive attack.
Straub came in with the bases loaded and no one out in the fourth inning. A two-run single by Brett Hammer knotted the game at 8-8, but Straub shut the door on any further damage to keep Vinson at bay.
"Jacob did just a fantastic job coming in relief," Dennison said.
Vinson had a runner on third in three straight innings hoping to take the lead, but each time, League 3's defense backed Straub to maintain the tie.
No play was bigger than the bottom of the sixth inning when an error left runners on second and third with two down. A slow grounder up the middle forced Stevens to hurry a throw, but it got there just in time to force extra innings.
"We were in a 4-0 hole and came back. We just never got the lead," Vinson coach Andy Radcliffe said. "(There was a) close play there at first base in the sixth, but they got the call right. ... We were half a step away from winning the game right there."
While Straub emerged victorious, Vinson's Cameron Maynard also came in under fire and threw excellent in relief.
He came in during the third inning and escaped a jam before settling in and allowing just one earned run in five innings of work. The three runs in the seventh were all unearned.
"Cameron pitched a great game, and even that last inning, we didn't get them out when we should have," Radcliffe said. "He came in during a pressure situation and came through for us."
The game was a seesaw affair throughout with both teams jockeying back and forth.
League 3 opened the game by putting up four runs in the top of the first on two-run doubles by Dennison and Mercer.
Vinson countered with a pair of runs in each of the first two innings to knot the game at 4 before League 3 answered with three runs in the top of the third.
A pair of runs in the bottom of the frame cut League 3's lead to 7-6, but a sacrifice fly by Straub pushed the advantage back to two before Vinson knotted it with two runs in the bottom of the fourth on Hammer's two-run single.
For League 3, Mercer finished 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs while Stevens had three hits, including two doubles, and an RBI. Dennison and Hiner each had two hits and run-scoring doubles.
For Vinson, Justin Samson had a pair of doubles and led four players with multiple hits. Parker Monteville went 2-for-4 with a two-run double while Nicholas Radcliffe and Maynard also had two hits.
LEAGUE 3 403 100 3 -- 11 13 1
VINSON 222 200 0 -- 8 12 4
Dennison, Straub (4) and Bowen. Samson, Maynard (3) and Radcliffe. Hitting: (L3) Stevens 3-4, 2 2B, RBI; Mercer 3-5, 2B, 3 RBI; Hiner 2-4, 2B, RBI; Dennison 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Parker 2 RBI; Straub RBI. (V) Samson 2-4, 2 2B; Monteville 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Maynard 2-4; Radcliffe 2-5; Hammer 2 RBI; May RBI.