ASHLAND When Don Ashby initially ordered Grant Slater’s All-Star jersey, he mistakenly inserted a “D” in place of the “T.”
On Saturday, the letters “W” and/or “K” were appropriate for the right-handed pitcher.
Slater tallied eight strikeouts in 3 1-3 innings as he earned the win in a 13-2 triumph for the Ashland 9-11 All-Stars. They took down Olive Hill to grab the District 6 title at Waterworks Field.
It started with Slater, who relented two walks and hit a batter as he held Olive Hill hitless. Ashby replaced him with Jonah Arnett in the fourth inning of the mercy-rule contest. Toby Stinton lined a two-run double to left field off Arnett for the team’s lone hit, but he was ultimately caught in a rundown by backup catcher Eli Cummings for the final out. Arnett also recorded a strikeout.
“(Slater) has pitched great for us,” said Ashby, the manager. “When he’s on, he’s hard to hit for an 11U pitcher. He’s just tall and lanky, and has a little bit awkward delivery. The ball’s kinda hard to pick up. It sneaks up on them a lot quicker than they think it will be.”
Ashland’s offense gave Slater plenty of support. It has the ability to explode at times, as it did in a 28-0 rout of Morehead earlier in the week.
“When we battle with two strikes, when we compete, we’re tough,” Ashby said. “Some games, we don’t compete and we’ll have a high strikeout count, but if the strikeout count’s down at the plate, we’re going to beat most teams.”
Olive Hill’s Hayden Hall fanned six. Eian Porter struck out the only batter he faced.
Unbeaten Ashland rapped 11 hits, three coming sharply off the bat of Brady Marushi. He doubled twice and scored three times out of the leadoff spot. Two-hole hitter Maverick Ashby reached base in all three plate appearances. He sent a liner to the fence in right field as Olive Hill’s right fielder was unsuccessful in a diving-catch attempt. Ashby rounded the bags for an inside-the-park home run in the third. He matched Marushi with three runs.
Sam Lyons posted a pair of hits. LJ Murphy was 2 for 2. Isaac Leeper had a double and a hit-by-pitch. Baker Sutton and Arnett each had an RBI single.
“We tell these kids, we’re not minor leagues, we’re not T-ball,” Don Ashby said. “It’s not about putting the ball in play, it’s about squaring it up and hitting it hard at this level.”
Olive Hill never threw in the figurative towel, though. Brody Boggs was 0 for 0 with two walks.
“I’m very proud of my boys,” said Olive Hill manager Steve Porter. “We’re gritty. We had to really fight to get to this final round; we had a couple grinders. We just ran up against an awful good Ashland team today.”
Eleven of the 13 players on Ashland’s roster experienced the state tournament as Ashland American 8-10s last year. The All-Stars were 0-3 then. As for now, Ashby is optimistic.
Ashland will compete at State beginning on July 20 in Prestonsburg.
OLIVE HILL 000 2 — 2 1 2
ASHLAND 274 x — 13 11 0
Hall, Porter (3) and Stinton; Slater, Arnett (4) and Leeper, Cummings (4). W—Slater. L—Hall. 2B—Stinton (O), Marushi 2 (A), Leeper (A). HR—Ashby (A).
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