For The Independent
SOUTH SHORE —
It was raining home runs in South Shore on Thursday night.
The Morehead Youth 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars used the long ball to complement a stellar pitching performance from Clayton Black as they cruised to a 9-1 victory over Ashland American in the District 6 championship at Stan Spence Field.
The Area 1 champs hit three straight homers in their final at-bat to propel the team to the State Tournament, which begins on July 20 in Prestonsburg.
The hitting display was not surprising to Morehead manager Adam Mullen.
"We have so much confidence in our bats," Mullen said. "The kids work hard at the plate all the time. It was our saving grace today. We came alive in the last inning."
Rain postponed the title game Wednesday after Ashland American jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. Unfortunately for Ashland, the game had to be restarted because it had not finished a complete inning, according to Little League Rules.
Black kept hitters off-balanced for much of the contest on his way to a three-hit complete game, recording 10 strikeouts and only one walk.
"It's hard to throw a complete game on 85 pitches," said Mullen. "His delivery was spot on today. He was really throwing hard."
The right-hander battled his way through trouble in the early innings before coasting the rest of the way. He retired the last 10 batters he faced.
Ashland American jumped out to an early lead on an opposite-field homer by Bryce Carley in the first.
Morehead quickly answered in the bottom of the inning. An infield hit by Shane Taylor allowed Jacob Smith to score all the way from second.
After Black walked, Corey Binion lined a two-run triple down the left-field line to give his team a 4-1 lead.
The score remained the same over the next three innings. As rain arrived in the fifth, the ball starting leaving the yard for Morehead.
With two outs, A.J. Hacker hit a double off the left-field wall and scored on a Black single.
The next three hitters brought the fans to their feet as the middle of the lineup hit back-to-back-to-back homers.
Binion started with a towering shot over the center-field wall to clear the bases. He was followed by solo dingers by Mathew Gagliano and Ryan Mullen.
"We usually average three or four home runs a game," said Morehead's manager. "We have a lot of experienced hitters. Any swing can go yard."
Black helped himself at the plate, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Binion also had two hits and contributed three RBIs.
With the win, Morehead finished 5-0 in tournament play. Mullen and his team will celebrate this victory before making the trip to southeastern Kentucky.
"It is a big win for Morehead," claimed an ecstatic Mullen. "We had a great group to pick from. These kids never gave up and now we are undefeated and going to State. You can't complain about that."
ASH. AMER. 100 000 — 1 3 2
MOREHEAD 400 05X — 9 10 0
Francis, Keelin(4), and Marushi; Black and Gagliano. WP—Black. LP—Francis. 2B—Hacker (M). 3B—Binion (M). HR—Carley (AA), Binion (M), Gagliano (M), Mullen (M).