The Russell County 11U all-stars begin their quest for a region tournament title today.
The team takes on Schererville (IN) at 3:30 CT today (Thursday, July 14) at Veterans Park in Lexington in the opening game of pool play.
Then, RC will take on Mattoon (IL) and Southeastern (KY) tomorrow at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. CT, respectively.
Pool play will determine opponents and times for the six teams that will advance to the single-elimination tournament, which begins on Saturday.
The team qualified for the region tournament after winning the West Kentucky Cal Ripken State Championship on Sunday.
Coach Brian Brumley said his team got Monday off but has been hard at work since, with one singular goal in mind: a region championship.
“They’re all pretty strong-willed kids, and they’re not going to settle,” Brumley said. “It’s a great accomplishment, winning state. Most kids in their lifetime won’t be able to say that. That’s always going to be remembered, and now, we have the opportunity to go on and do something even bigger.”
The team is coming off an impressive state tournament run.
The run started in pool play, with a 10-9 win on Thursday over Owensboro Western and 12-2 victory over Jeffersontown on Friday. The wins earned them a bye into the semifinals and all of Saturday off.
From a baseball perspective, that advantage was “big” in helping them on their way to the state title
“The fact of not having to play on Saturday, that’s another day you don’t have to pitch anybody,” Brumley said. “From a baseball aspect, you’re not using any of your pitching and giving the whole team a day of rest to not be on the field.”
Off the field, it allowed the “kids to just be kids.”
“We took them out to watch the new Thor at a theater there, we went out to eat as a team, we swam in the pool,” Brumley said. “They got to be kids because they put the work in Thursday and Friday. I told them on Friday before we played Jeffersontown, if we can take care of business right here, we’ll do whatever you guys want to do. They answered the call and beat them in four innings.”
The team’s next game was against Meade County on Sunday.
RC won 6-5, with Keaton Garner and Keenan Stille leading the team with two hits apiece. The all-stars had nine hits total as a team.
Garner also had two of the team’s six RBI and picked up the win on the mound, striking out four batters in four innings and allowing only one earned run.
The team scored six runs in the first four innings and kept Meade County to one run. Meade scored two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth inning to make it a tight game, but RC was able to pull it out in the end.
“We jumped out to an early lead … but they started swinging the bats a little bit better, scored some runs,” Brumley said. “We had a meeting in the dugout in the fifth inning. We got together and said, ‘That’s enough.’ We had them where we wanted them. This is baseball. You’ve got to play the leather.
“We huddled up, made plays, and didn’t fold. We stayed true to the course and saw it through. That was a tough game. They were a good team and well-coached.”
The win set up a rematch against Owensboro Western in the title game.
The game was tied through two innings at 1-1 before RC broke through with a three-run third inning.
Will Coffey, Parker Brumley, and Garner all had two hits in the game. Raylan McAninch and Stille both added a hit for the team total of eight.
Brumley drove in two of the team’s four runs, with McAninch and Gavin Campbell driving in one run apiece.
Brumley pitched a complete game on the mound, striking out one batter and only allowing one run (unearned).
“We were prepared for another slugfest,” Coach Brumley said. “Our pitching was great that game. Parker Brumley, he started the game and finished the game and only gave up one run against a very good team. The defense, they had his back. That makes a difference. He had a lot of trust in his teammates, and he tried to do his job and the guys all did their jobs. It was a great game all the way around.”
Going into the region tournament, Coach Brumley said the team’s experience will play a major factor. His team is “mostly” comprised of players that was on the 10U team that finished in the final six last season.
”They got a little taste last year, some good experience,” Brumley said. “They’re a year older now. They understand what’s coming now because they’ve already been there.”
If the team were to win the region championship, RC would earn an automatic bid to the 12U Cal Ripken World Series next year (odd years, such as 11U and 9U, don’t have a “World Series” in Cal Ripken).
Regardless of the outcome, though, Brumley said his team has already accomplished so much.
“The way they’ve represented Russell County, we couldn’t ask any more of them,” Brumley said. “I’m beyond happy for them … The entire team, it’s like they’re brothers. They love on each other, pick on each other. They’ve got each other’s back. We see it more and more every day.
“We would just like to thank all of the different businesses and organizations that have reached out to us and helped us out in a variety of ways,” he added. “You have not gone unnoticed; it’s such a very kind gesture. We’d like to thank the City of Jamestown, City of Russell Springs, Edward Jones, Campbell Trucking, United Citizens Bank, Xtreme Detailing, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Cumberland Creations, and Lake Cumberland Outdoors. In some form or fashion, they have helped these kids along the way. They’ve made it much more fun for the kids, so we’d like to give a big shout out to them.”