By RYAN INGRAM
FORT WAYNE —
The number nine was lucky for the Jeff/GRC 11-12-year-old All-Stars Tuesday night as they handled Elwood easily at the Little League state tournament in Fort Wayne’s Times Corner Little League.
Jeff scored nine runs on nine hits and starting pitcher Jack Ellis struck out nine while hurling a 74-pitch complete game to secure the 9-1 win.
Jeff will face Valparaiso today at 1 p.m. in an elimination game, which is essentially a state quarterfinal game.
The game didn’t begin smoothly for Jeff. The first three batters were retired in order in the bottom of the first.
“They came out a little tight,” Jeff coach Chuck Latham said of his players following the game, “but they relaxed fairly quickly. We told them, ‘Listen, he’s going to throw strikes, just relax, stay calm and confident,’ and they did.”
Jeff got on the board first in the second. Dylan Robinson drew a two-out walk and came around to score from first on Luke Thompson’s double up the middle.
Noah Hernandez led off the third inning with a single back up the box, moved to second when Brady Latham was walked, and scored on a single by Drew Taylor.
Coach Latham pushed the right buttons and called for the squeeze bunt with Luke Stock at the plate and Brady Latham at third.
“With Brady’s speed, we feel like we can do a lot of things. I gave stock the bunt sign, and he laid down a perfect one towards third base,” Latham said.
The two runs gave Jeff a 3-0 lead through three innings.
In the fourth, Turon Mitchell drew a one-out walk. He moved first to third on Drew Fifer’s bloop single into left field. Latham cleared the basepaths with a smash off of the concession stand in straightaway center.
Taylor followed suit with a blast of his own, a line drive to right-center field that got out quickly. Jeff led 7-0 with four innings completed.
Elwood scored it’s only run in the top of the fifth, a two-out solo home run to left-center field.
GRC added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. Ethan English doubled to left and scored on Robison’s double to center. After moving to third on a sacrifice fly, Robinson was driven in by Joe LaGrange’s single to cap the scoring for Jeff at 9-1.
After the game, Latham was ecstatic about Ellis’ pitching effort.
“We thought he was just phenomenal,” Latham said. “He was very calm, very cool and got ahead of hitters. It was just what we needed in order to set up a favorable pitching situation going into tomorrow.”
Jeff opens tourney with eight-inning win
ELKHART — Jeff/GRC’s 10-11 All-Stars erased three-run deficits twice in the game before pulling away from Munster with four runs in the eighth inning to win 12-8 Monday at the Concord Little League park in Elkhart.
Jacob Grimes scored the go-ahead run when Ben Harbeson’s hit couldn’t be corraled in right field in the eighth. Harbeson came in on a single to center by Conner Christopher. After Colby Kayrouz was hit by a pitch, Markez Jordan cleared the bases with a triple. Jeff held Munster without a run in the bottom half of the eighth to cement the victory.
The teams traded blows in the first inning. Jeff scored a single run in the top of the first, and Munster answered to tie in the bottom half.
Munster managed to hang a crooked number in the bottom of the second inning, scoring three runs to give it a 4-1 lead.
Jeff cut the lead by a run in the top of the third and held Munster to make it a two run game, 4-2 before T.J. Ellis drove in Keiton Smith and Jocob Grimes with a double to tie the game at 4-4 in the fourth.
Munster scored three runs in an inning for the second time in the bottom of the fourth, regaining the lead at 7-4, but Jeff would not back down. Jackson Kruer, Smith and Jared Wells had consecutive hits that helped Jeff rally to tie the game once more, 7-7.
Ellis entered in relief of Christopher and threw 90 pitches to button down the win for Jeff.
GRC fell to Seymour 12-8 on Tuesday and will face Auburn today at 3 p.m. Read about both games in Thursday’s News and Tribune.