LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
For 21/2 innings Wednesday night, things weren’t looking too good for the North Laurel Blue 9-10 year old all-stars.
Clay County held a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the third in the winner’s bracket final of the Area 2 tournament at South London. Clay pitcher Thomas Jackson held North’s potent offense to just the single run on three hits.
That all changed in the bottom of the third, as North exploded for seven runs to take an 8-3 lead en route to a 10-5 win and the Area 2 title.
“I’ve said it before, it doesn’t matter what level you are playing at, little league, high school, college, professional, if you play defense and get good pitching you win games,” North Blue coach Chris Edwards said.
North committed just one error in the game, while North pitcher’s Chase Keen and Corey Broughton combined to allow Clay nine hits and five runs.
After North took an 8-3 lead, there were still some tense moments for the boys in blue, especially in the fourth inning.
Austin Smith led the inning off with a solo home run to make it 8-4. Keen then walked the bases loaded, and Broughton came in to relieve him with one out. Lucas Denman singled in another run, but Broughton was able to retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
“That was big,” Edwards said. “Even after we fell behind early, this team didn’t get rattled. They are a lot more mature than their 10 years of age. Clay County has a really good team.”
North Blue took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Kyle Elza doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch.
Clay came back to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the second, then added another run in the top of the third to increase its lead to 3-1. North had a chance to do some damage in the bottom of the second when it had the bases loaded with one out but failed to push a run across.
They made sure that didn’t happen in the bottom of the third.
With one out, Keen and Broughton hit back-to-back singles. After the second out, Clay Sizemore singled to drive in Keen. Brayden Reed came in to run for Sizemore.
A double to right-center off the bat of Walt Hellard drove in Broughton with the tying run. Reed would score on a wild pitch while Auggie Storm drew a walk. Both runners came home on a triple by Reed Sheppard to give North a 6-3. Two Clay errors helped North score its next two runs as Sheppard and Elza scored to make it 8-3.
Clay cut the lead to 8-5 in the fourth, but North added a run in the bottom of the inning and another in the fifth to make the final 10-5. Lucas Butler singled and scored on a single by Hellard in the fourth, and Elza doubled and scored on a single by Broughton in the fifth.
“We did what we needed to do to win tonight,” Edwards said.
North Laurel Blue advances to the district tournament, while will get underway Monday in Middlesboro. North will face Wayne County at 8 p.m. Hazard Orange will take on Knox County at 6 p.m. in the other winner’s bracket game.
In the loser’s bracket, Pulaski County faces Hazard Blue July 8 at 6, followed by the Clay-Corbin 1 winner meeting Williamsburg at 8 p.m.
The tournament runs through July 13.