Both of Derek Runyon’s shoulders may have required ice on Sunday evening.
Ashland 8U All-Stars’ left-handed manager had pitched five games in less than 48 hours. His right arm became a fast-moving windmill as Asher Moore motored from first base to home plate.
The District 6 champions survived a thriller, 11-10, against Clay County to set up a rematch with Lexington Turkey Feet in the coach-pitch state baseball tournament in Richmond. Turkey Feet beat Ashland on Monday, but Ashland earned state runner-up status.
“We were incredibly fortunate with this group of kids,” Runyon said. “They have a passion to play; they showed up every day at practice and displayed that. They were willing to put themselves in different positions than they were used to. We really had to work hard to develop some outfielders, including my own son (Reed), who were used to being infielders. ... They got along well, they picked each other up.”
Ashland battled back after falling to Turkey Feet, 13-9, on Friday at Lake Reba Park.
The 8U All-Stars returned on Saturday to capture wins over Paintsville, 15-4, and Russell-Flatwoods, 7-5. Russell was the District 6 runner-up.
“We had a great game against Russell. They’re a good team,” Runyon said of the group managed by Paul Craft. “The first three innings, there was great defensive play after great defensive play.”
Ashland then defeated Hazard/Perry, 16-7, and Clay County in edge-of-your-seat fashion on Sunday.
Clay County led 6-0 after two innings, but Runyon knew his resilient bunch wouldn’t throw in the towel. The Ashland boys bounced back and eventually created a 10-9 contest in the bottom of the fifth. Trailing 10-6, the All-Stars used a bases-loaded, two-out, three-run hit by Jackson Sieweke to trim the gap to one. Jett Travis tacked on an RBI hit to tie the contest.
After blanking Clay in the top of the sixth thanks to a Hunter Good-initiated double play, Ashland had its leadoff batter at the dish. Ashland opened the frame with a single but then had a strikeout and a fielder’s choice. With Moore on first, cleanup hitter Noah Fannin approached the plate.
Prior to pitching to Fannin, Runyon peered over to third-base coach Preston Freeman to assure they were on the same page.
“(Moore) is fast,” Runyon said. “I’m thinking, if there’s any chance we can send him, we gotta send him. Preston’s like, ‘I already got it.’
“Noah just rips a hard line drive between first and second, and it one-hops the right fielder,” Runyon recalled. “He gets a glove on it, but it goes by him. As soon as the ball got by right, Asher’s just on the go. He beats the throw to the plate.”
Turkey Feet was a buzzsaw on Monday — “They didn’t have a weak spot,” Runyon said. It handed Ashland an 18-0 defeat, but any sour mood was short-lived.
“Any time you get an opportunity to do something like this, it’s a privilege,” Runyon said. “We had a true family atmosphere, and nobody had a larger support group.”
Ashland’s 8U All-Stars went 8-2 overall. They were 4-0, outscoring opponents 62-10, in district play before the newly sanctioned state tournament.
Runyon, who directs the Rookie League sector of Ashland Little League, said he found out about the tournament just before Memorial Day. Ashland American president Don Ashby informed him.
Several of the same players will be eligible to make the team again next season. Of 13 players on the roster, only five are actually 8.
“I liked our Rookie League this year,” Runyon said. “Games were competitive. It was good to go coach pitch and have no pitching machine. Kids need to see the ball come out of the hand. ... I’m putting myself on the shelf for a while. I think it’s time to be a soccer dad.”
(606) 326-2664 |