By GREG MENGELT
FORT WAYNE —
Jeff/GRC’s long road back to Thursday’s Little League 11-12-year-old state semifinals began with a big four-inning 12-2 win over Evansville Golfmoor on Monday.
After a tournament-opening loss to South Bend Waggoner, Jeff needs two more wins to reach the single-elimination portion of the tournament following Monday’s victory. The Jeffersonville All-Stars face Elwood — a 6-4 winner over Waggoner on Monday — at 5:30 p.m. today at Fort Wayne’s Time Corners Little League. The winner will then meet either Hagertown or Valparaiso with a spot in Thursday’s semifinal-round on the line.
“We’ve got a very good mental makeup,” Jeff manager Chuck Latham said. “Maybe it was the travel [to the tournament] — I’m not sure why — but we weren’t sharp mentally [in Saturday’s loss]. We let a few errors get us down.”
Monday was a different story. Jeff came out and scored nine runs on six hits and never gave Golfmoor a chance.
“Our philosophy is as long as we have a strike [left], we have a chance. We like our chances of playing Thursday,” Latham said.
Drew Taylor got Jeff going in the top of the first inning with a one-out single. Following singles by Luke Stock and Jack Ellis, two fielder’s choice, two walks and a hit batter, Taylor gave Jeff a 9-0 first-inning lead with a grand slam.
“[The first inning] really set an unbelievable tone,” Latham said. “It made the rest of the game a little easier for us and we never took our foot off the gas.
“What we really emphasized the last two days is confidence at the plate and they really came out and hit the baseball. They came out swinging and put a lot of balls in play.”
After a scoreless second inning kept the score at 9-2, a Brady Latham RBI was followed by a Taylor two-RBI single to make it 12-2 and force the 10-run rule.
Taylor went 3-for-3 with six RBIs and he scored twice.
“Drew came into the game as our second-leading hitter, but we hadn’t felt that he’d had a breakout game,” Latham said. “He’s on another level as a hitter. He’s just a man-child at times. That home run was a blast and his other hits were line drives that were hit sharply, too.”
Taylor was also the winning pitcher, giving up two runs on four hits in three innings.
“Drew was absolutely terrific,” Latham said. “He got ahead of all of their hitters and Golfmoor is a terrific team. It was surprising to be playing them in an elimination game this early and they were a little tighter than we were.”
Ethan English, who is expected to be the starting against Elwood today, pitched the fourth inning and struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect frame.
Brady Latham and Jack Ellis each scored twice and knocked in a pair of runs.
“The top of our order is a confident bunch right now,” Latham said.
The bottom four batters in the Jeff order, including its subs, had six hits and scored five runs. Turon Mitchell scored twice. Seven different Jeff players had a hit and 10 scored at least one run.
“I thought our bench played terrific,” Latham said. “Noah Hernandez played great defensively and Dylan Robinson came in and caught and did a terrific job.”
AUBURN UPSETS TERRE HAUTE NORTH TO SET UP 9-10 SEMI
After Saturday’s 12-3 win over Terre Haute North, New Albany manager Josh Biven said he expected to play North again in this evening’s single-elimination Little League 9-10 baseball state semifinal.
Auburn had a different idea.
With North’s No. 1 pitcher — Matt Gauer — back at the hotel apparently with the flu, Auburn took advantage and beat the Terre Haute All-Stars 6-5.
New Albany overpowered Auburn 10-0 in four innings on Friday in the second round of the winners bracket.
“We’re set up pretty well,” Biven said. “We beat them in a quick 10-0 game, but they hit our top two pitchers pretty hard. We just made some nice plays behind them. If we come out and play our game, I think we’re the better team.”
Unbeaten Bedford will face Highland in this evening’s other semifinal.