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It would have been easy for the Legends baseball team, a 12-and-under team comprised of players from Grant County, to look past the competition at the Battle of the Borders Tournament as they are heading to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend.
Instead, the Legends were focused on the task at hand, winning the tournament. which was played last weekend at the Northern Kentucky Sports Park, that featured teams from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and Tennessee.
"What an exciting weekend of youth baseball. What a way to head to Cooperstown," Legends coach Greg Carr said after watching his team run its record to 24-8 on the season.
The Legends opened the tournament with a 3-0 victory over the Grayslake (Illinois) Falcons. Hunter Epperson threw a no-hitter through five and two-thirds innings before finding himself in a jam with the bases loaded. Epperson finished with 10 strikeouts, four walks and allowed no hits. Jarrod Ball came on in relief and threw one pitch to record a ground ball.
In the second game of the tournament, the Legends blasted the Northern Kentucky Knights 12-3 as Tyler Carr and Nolan Wilson each went 3-for-3 at the plate. Cole McCubbin was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI's, while Logan Cummins, Ball, Epperson and Jared Baker all had one hit each. Chase O'Connor pitched four innings, allowing three runs on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
The Legends' winning ways continued as they pounded out 11 hits, defeating the Urbana (Ohio) Dragons 14-3.
Aaron Hicks led the way offensively, going 2-for-2 with three RBI's, while Wilson and Tyler Carr were each 2-for-4 with two RBI's. Epperson was 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Carr threw four innings, allowing one run on three hits, along with four strikeouts and one walk.
Ball pitched one inning, giving up two runs on two hits.
On June 14, the Legends found themselves matched up against the Grayslake Falcons again.
"I was uneasy about this game as this Falcon team was as strong defensively as any team we have faced all year. Also, two of my top three pitchers were not available, but pitching is our strength," Carr said.
Ball took the mound and kept the Falcons hitters off balance, giving his team a 5-4 lead heading into the top of the sixth inning.
Following a hit by a Grayslake batter, Carr visited the mound and Ball told his coach to not take him out.
"I went with my gut and left him in," Carr said.
After a stolen base, the Falcons bunted the runner over to third with two outs and the tying run on third. Ball responded by throwing a changeup with a 2-2 count to record the strikeout, ending the game and sending the Legends into the championship game.
"In similar games this season, we seemed to tighten up in this situation, but not this day," Carr said.
On June 15, the Legends wasted little time showing who the best team was, jumping out to a 5-1 lead en route to a 12-1 victory over Urbana. The victory was the teams third mercy-rule victory in five games.
Ball recorded a home run and triple to lead the Legends at the plate.
Epperson threw four innings, allowing one run on two hits to earn the win.