Lloyd Lumberjacks pitcher Elijah Hankins works plateward during the championship of the 12U Freedom Invitational on Sunday in West Union, Ohio. Hankins threw a no-hitter in the 15-0 win and was the tournament MVP.

Real impressive.

That’s how Lloyd Lumberjacks 12-under travel baseball coach Matt Roy described what his team did last weekend.

It was splendid for multitudinous reasons.

The Lumberjacks captured the Freedom Invitational tournament on Sunday in West Union, Ohio. They hung a 15-0, three-inning mercy-rule win on the Tri-State Titans.

It was superb because Lumberjacks pitcher Elijah Hankins, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, tossed a no-hitter in the title game. Of the 36 pitches he threw, 32 were strikes.

“It was nice to be back on the field again,” said Hankins, 12, of Ashland. “My fastball was really doing well, and my curveball was right in there, too. And my catcher (Ryan Seimetz) had an awesome game behind the plate; I couldn’t have done it without him.”

It was sumptuous because the Lumberjacks averaged more than 10 runs a game over their four wins.

“Doing that after being quarantined for three months, and not having any team workouts, and everybody’s doing their own thing on their own, that’s pretty impressive,” Roy said. “As a team we hit over .500 for the weekend; real impressive.”

It was thrilling because the Lumberjacks, like the others, could only practice a couple times before the tournament.

And maybe most of all, it was momentous because it was the first tournament for the Lumberjacks, Titans and Boyd County’s Kentucky Steelers since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports from Little League to high school to the Major Leagues.

Being on the sad side of a 15-0, three-inning, mercy-rule wipeout is usually cause for consternation. Titans coach Tim Butler was happy to simply get dirty.

Butler said there were 50 to 60 teams on the diamonds in the 8- to 13-under divisions. He said all 13 Titans – an amalgam of kids from Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia – voted to play two weeks ago, apparently with their parents’ blessing.

“We talked about the whole (coronavirus) situation,” Butler said. “Everybody knows (contracting COVID-19) is a possibility; they’re aware of everything that could happen.”

Finding a place to practice was another challenge. Butler said one day a week his players went to ThunderDome Softball Center in Kenova, while Lumberjacks coach Matt Roy opted for giving parents workout plans.

Travel teams typically start their seasons in March, and by June, pitchers can safely throw 80-90 pitches per start. Different scenario this year: Butler said pitch counts top off at 40-50.

“Just trying to protect the arms and be safe,” Butler said.

The Titans were 4-1 for the weekend, Butler’s son, Cayden, 13, and Tayveon Wilson had good weekends – Butler smacked two home runs, and Wilson added another.

“We didn’t play the best this weekend,” Cayden Butler said. “But we played pretty good for our first tournament. I think we just came out nervous.”

The Lumberjacks are scheduled to play in the Reds MVP tournament this weekend in Fairfield, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb. Butler wants to take his team to a tournament over the Fourth of July weekend in Kingsport, Tennessee, but before that, the schedule is less certain.

“It’s kind of a week-to-week thing,” Butler said.

While it wasn’t known whether Roy would be doing loads of laundry, his team certainly had fun.

“It’s always good to go home on the weekend with a trophy,” Roy said. “Honestly, with the circumstances that everyone’s been through, whether we won or lost, it was great just to be outside and getting dirt all over your ankles, and the kids getting dirt all over their uniforms – and them kinda having some normalcy in their life.”

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