Only one win away from a District 6 Championship, there was a chance Russell-Flatwoods could need two games to get there. The 9- and 10-year-olds decided to finish it with one.
Russell-Flatwoods defeated Lewis County 8-4 in the District 6 championship game at Fraley Fields on Monday night.
With the win, Russell went a perfect 4-0 in the tournament and, more importantly for coach Donnie Watkins, it can now focus on the state tournament.
“It’s tough to go through every game undefeated,” Watkins said. “We started off slow today and ended it by not giving up. We were happy ... very happy to not have to play a fifth.”
Russell started off the game with a 1-0 lead after Lewis County starter Sam O’Keefe walked four straight batters in the first inning.
But for the next couple of innings, Lewis County capitalized on the sloppy play of Russell, which committed five errors in the first three innings.
Two errors at second base scored a run in the second. Lewis County then added two in the third, including one on Bailey Thomas’ triple, who scored when a throw went over the third baseman’s head.
Watkins was quick to let his team know he expects better from them.
“We just told them they had to pick it up,” Watkins said. “We’re a better team than that and we haven’t played like that all year. Now is the time not to do it in the last game. I told them to pick it up and keeps their heads up.”
With starter Logan Harrison struggling to find the strike zone, Watkins then put Issac Jenkins on the mound in the third inning. Jenkins responded by not allowing a hit and striking out seven batters.
“Logan’s been our best pitcher throughout the tournament but he started off slow today and we got him out of there and brought in Issac,” Watkins said. “Issac is our fastest pitcher and he bailed us out.
“He was huge, because Lewis County is a good hitting team. And for him to come in and shut them down ... good for him.”
Down 3-2 heading into the fourth inning, Russell-Flatwoods needed the bats to wake up. The middle of lineup provided an offensive spark in the fourth.
After two straight walks to open the inning, No. 2 hitter Austin Watkins smacked a triple into right field that went to the fence to score two runs.
This was followed by Jenkins giving a new definition to going yard — sending a two-run homer over the left-field fence into a neighboring house’s side yard to push the lead to 6-3.
“That just got the kids pumped up,” Watkins said. “That was the fire we needed to get them going. Issac is a good hitter and sometimes he hits a long ball like that. He’s been hitting good and been doing that all tournament.”
After the Jenkins home run, Russell-Flatwoods added two more runs in the fourth on an Erick Williams single to right field to boost the lead to 8-3.
Lewis County scored a run in the fifth behind a walk and some passed balls. It trailed 8-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Jenkins had to leave with one out in the frame after reaching the Little League maximum pitch count of 75 pitches.
With two outs and Luke Cheesbro on first after a walk, Lewis County got a double to the right-field fence by Thomas — he had both Lewis County hits.
Cheesbro then rounded third and tried to score on the play. But a relay from the right fielder to the second baseman, to the pitcher and then finally to the catcher nabbed the sliding Cheesbro to give the district title to Russell-Flatwoods.
“I was so nervous, I didn’t even see the play at home,” Watkins said with laugh. “I just saw them cut it and throw it and then I heard the umpire yell out. I couldn’t even watch it.”
Russell-Flatwoods moves on to the state tournament which is held in Prestonsburg starting on July 19.
LEWIS CO. 012 010 — 4 2 0
R-FLATWOODS 101 60X — 8 9 5
O’Keefe, Bentley (4) and Moore. Harrison, Jenkins (3), Watkins (6) and Campbell. W — Jenkins. L — O’Keefe. 2B — Thomas (LC), Campbell (RF). 3B — Thomas (LC), Watkins (RF). HR — Jenkins (RF).