By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
Jeff/GRC won its second straight 11-12-year-old baseball District 5 Tournament championship and its third in six years with a 12-3 win over host New Albany at Mt. Tabor Park on Tuesday.
“This is a huge deal for us,” Jeff/GRC manager Chuck Latham said. “Mentally, these kids have far exceeded my expectations. Mentally, they’re just tough.”
Jeff advances to the state finals at Fort Wayne Don Ayers Little League, beginning Saturday against the District 11 champions from South Bend. It’s the first of potentially six games in six days in search of the program’s second Major League division state championship in six years.
“These kids have a bigger picture in mind,” Latham said.
On Tuesday, Jeff scored its 12 runs on 11 hits and was relentless against New Albany pitching throughout the night. Drew Taylor and Brady Latham each homered and Dylan Robinson hit a two-RBI double in the victory.
“Our two-strike hitting was phenomenal,” Chuck Latham said.
Jeffersonville’s All-Stars completed district play unbeaten at 6-0 and won its two elimination games by a combined score of 22-3.
Jeff took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning when it took advantage of two hit batters and a throwing error. Brady Latham opened the frame with a double and scored when New Albany threw away a Luke Stock groundball. With runners on first and second base, New Albany starting pitcher Nolan Keeler hit Jeff pitcher Ethan English with a pitch, then walked Jack Ellis to drive home Jeff’s second run.
New Albany answered in the bottom of the first when Cody Medley hit a two-run opposite-field home run off of English over the right-field fence to knot the contest at two.
GRC scored two more runs in the second. This time it was Taylor who hit a two-run blast. Taylor’s shot over the center-field fence brought home Drew Fifer, who had reached on an infield single off the glove of Keeler.
The scoring continued in the New Albany half of the second when Keeler hit a one-out single and scored on a fielder’s choice — a near double play that would have ended the inning — off the bat of Dylan Clark.
However, English struck out New Albany’s Kevin Smith to get out of a jam and keep the score 4-3.
Jeff added a single run to make it 5-3 in the third when pinch-hitter Turon Mitchell singled with one out and scored on a Brady Latham single with two outs. Keeler got Taylor to ground out with runners on first and second to get out of another tough spot.
After serving up the first scoreless half-inning in the bottom of the third, English hit a one-out double to get Jeff going in the fourth. English scored when a Robinson fly ball was misplayed in center field. English slid around a Clark tag at home plate to make it 6-3.
Two more Jeff runs came home on a fielding error off the bat of Joe LaGrange. A wild pitch and a Luke Thompson groundout against New Albany reliever Carson Gentry plated LaGrange and it was 9-3 Jeff in the middle of the fourth inning.
After English shut down New Albany again in the fourth, Brady Latham hit an opposite-field home run that easily cleared the right-field fence for his third hit, his second RBI and his second run of the game.
With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Robinson hit a two-RBI double that scored Mitchell and English to make it 12-3.
It was a New Albany team known for memorable comebacks in 2013, but Taylor would have none of it. After replacing English at the start of the fifth, Taylor retired the six of the eight batters he faced over the final two innings to preserve the championship. He struck out two.
Latham finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs and English reached base four times, scoring twice, for Jeff/GRC. Taylor went 2-for-4 and scored a pair of runs and Robinson drove in three for the victors.
Cooper Biven went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles, a pair of walks and a run. Keeler also had a pair of singles and scored a run for New Albany, which finished with seven hits.
LITTLE LEAGUE DISTRICT 5
11-12 BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
At Mt. Tabor Park, New Albany
JEFF/GRC 12, NEW ALBANY 3
Jeff/GRC 221 430—12 13 1
New Albany 210 000— 3 7 2
W — Ethan English. L — Nolan Keeler. 2B — Brady Latham (J), English (J), Dylan Robinson (J). HR — Drew Taylor (J), Latham (J), Cody Medley (N).
Records — Jeff/GRC 6-0, New Albany 3-3.