Yankees champs, again

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Henry County Yankees nip Eminence Rockies for Majoy League title, 8-7

By Tommie Kendall

The Henry County Yankees came through in the clutch against the Eminence Rockies in the championship game of the Henry County Youth Baseball League Major League Division, scoring two runs in the top of the fifth inning to break open a tie and holding on for a slim 8-7 win.

The victory secured the Yankees the postseason title to go along with their regular-season crown, and a 17-3 overall record. Meanwhile, the Rockies were runners-up in both the regular-season and the double-elimination tournament and finished at 12-8. The two squads played each other eight times this spring, with the Yankees leading the series 6-2 — the Rockies beat the Yankees in the finals of the Trimble County Tournament and once during the regular season, while the Yankees won the other six contests, including the finals for the 11- and 12-year-old players last Friday night at New Castle’s field.

“I thought both teams played very well,” said Yankees head coach Brad Steverson, whose only other loss besides the two to the Rockies was against the Henry County Astros. “It was a great game. I felt like it was the best night we had hit off each other all year. I had some players step up, but overall it was a solid team effort from everyone.”

Steverson said two players that came through with the game on the line were Logan McClellan and Dakota Dawson. McClellan had a solid game at the plate, and Dawson made possibly the game-winning catch in right field during the bottom of the fifth inning. With the Yankees ahead by one run, 8-7, one out and players on second and third bases, Dawson dove for the ball along the right-field line, made the catch and threw it to the infield to hold the runners. The next batter struck out to leave the Yankees ahead by one, and ultimately give them the win.

“McClellan had his best game at the plate all year, and Dawson made that diving catch which probably won the game for us,” Steverson said. “It was a team effort but those two stood out.”

The Yankees finished with 12 hits, led by Casey Calhoun with three. As for the Rockies, they finished with 11 hits, led by Jalen Dixie with three. The Yankees scored four runs in a big opening-inning bat, two in the second inning and two in the fifth. The Rockies scored two runs in the first inning, one run in the third, three runs in the fourth and one run in the fifth.

The game was knotted up at 6 before the Yankees smacked a two RBI triple to go ahead 8-6 during the fifth inning. The Rockies then scored once in the bottom of the fifth before Dawson came up with the game-altering catch to seal the win for the Yankees.

Pitching for the Rockies were Justin Mitchell and Dixie. The Yankees, on the other hand, went four deep with Isaac Steverson, Dakota Estes, Connor McCleeary and Mason Fish. According to the little league pitching rules, Fish had just one eligible inning so started the bottom of the sixth inning and threw three consecutive strikeouts to end the game.

“I thought, offensively, we played better than expected against a team the caliber of the Yankees,” Rockies head coach Tim Jones said of his team’s runners-up performance. “Pitching and defensively we didn’t play as well, although they’re the best team in the league so that happens when you play guys that can smack the ball. Six of the eight games we played against the Yankees were decided by one or two runs and by no more than five runs combined. I can’t put my finger on why we scored so many this time out.”

To reach the finals, the Rockies came through the loser’s bracket — they defeated the Astros, 7-1, lost to the Yankees, 2-1, then defeated the Braves, 8-5. The Braves matchup was the game before the finals. With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the third inning, Austin Jones smacked a two-run homer over the center-field fence and Justin Mitchell hit another two-run homer over the fence to put the Rockies comfortably ahead. They went on to win by five runs, but then lost to the Yankees in the championship. If the Rockies would have won — with the double-elimination style tournament — the two teams would have had to play another game to decide the champs.

In other tournament games in the Major League Division, the Rockies defeated the Astros, 7-1, and the Yankees defeated the Henry County Braves, 5-0, on the opening day. The Yankees then defeated the Rockies in the winner’s bracket, and the Braves knocked out the Astros, 9-6, in the loser’s bracket. The Rockies won over the Braves in a win-or-go-home scenario, which set up the Yankees-Rockies showdown in the finals.

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