Legends last forever: Legends take Cooperstown, N.Y. by storm

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By Paul Gable

Distance from Grant County to Cooperstown, N.Y.? 700 miles.

Number of home runs in one game? Eight.

Finishing with five wins and in the top 10 of a national baseball tournament? Priceless.

That is exactly the type of commercial and ending that Legends baseball coach Greg Carr can envision after watching his team, comprised of 12 and 13 year olds from Grant County and surrounding counties, earn not only victories, but respect at the 24-team National Cooperstown Tournament of Champions in in Cooperstown, June 21-26.

"It was the best time I've ever had in my life, and it was something else. I never would have dreamed we'd win five games," Carr said.

In addition to playing in the tournament, the Legends visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, attended a minor league game and took part in several competitions.

The Legends' fans placed second in a spirit competition, and the team had several players fare well in the skills competitions. Chase O'Connor earned fifth place in the gold glove competition, while Jarrod Ball and Cole McCubbin each participated in the home run competition. Hunter Epperson placed second in the fastest man in camp contest and the team placed third overall in the team relay.

In the first game, the Legends overcame nerves and defeated a team from Cincinnati 9-8. In that game, Epperson drew an intentional walk and McCubbin made the opposition pay, ripping a two-out single, lifting the Legends.

"We didn't play bad, but we were tight early in the game. When you can win and not play your best, that is the sign of a good team," Carr said.

The thrill of victory was short-lived, however, as the Legends fell 10-0 in four innings against eventual champion Palm Desert (Cal.). Jarrod Ball recorded two of the Legends' three hits.

In the third game, the Legends found their offense, thumping the Martin (Wisc.) Mavericks 8-6.

Tyler Carr pitched three-and-one-third innings, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out six to earn the win. Epperson threw two-thirds of an inning, giving up one walk and striking out two to earn the save. The Legends were led at the plate by Nolan Wilson, who went 2-for-2 with a single, home run and four RBIs. Epperson also hit a home run.

"We hadn't been hitting well coming into the game, and we were pressing. It felt good to get the win," Carr said.

Errors in two innings doomed the Legends in their fourth game, as the squad fell to a team from Bakersfield, Cal. Epperson was tagged for seven runs on five hits in the loss.

"I told the kids we were right there with them, but we had to make plays. Errors in the first and fourth innings hurt us," Carr said.

In the fifth game of the tournament, the offense woke up for the Legends, who belted 12 hits on their way to a 10-5 victory over the Cardinals Youth Traveling Team from Illinois.

Ball finished the game 3-for-4 with a home run, four RBIs and two stolen bases. Wilson finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Jared Baker was 1-for-3 with two RBIs. O'Connor earned the victory on the mound, going five innings, allowing five runs on five hits, striking out two and walking three.

In the sixth and final game of pool play, the Legends recorded eight home runs en route to a 17-5 win over a team from Tampa, Fla., who was considered a favorite.

"Everything that happened in that game went our way. That win secured a winning record for us and it was a pretty emotional night," said Carr, getting emotional recalling the game.

Logan Cummins finished the game 3-for-3 with a home run and two stolen bases. Ball was 3-for-3 with two home runs and five RBIs, while McCubbin was 2-for-2 with two home runs, four RBIs and a walk. O'Connor was 2-for-3 with two home runs and five RBIs, while Epperson was 1-for-1 with a home run, stolen base and an RBI. Ball earned the victory on the mound, allowing five runs on five hits, striking out two and a walk.

Following pool play, the Legends received the 10th seed, drawing the Mavericks again, and the result was the same, as the Legends pulled out a 7-4 win.

Wilson and McCubbin each recorded home runs, while Tyler Carr was 1-3 and earned the win, giving up three runs on four hits, striking out three and walking two. Epperson garnered a save, striking out two in one inning.

The Legends' tournament experience came to an end against the Tampa Bullets.

"Our bats left us and for the first time all tournament, our pitching let us down a little. I think we just ran out of gas and got tired," Carr said.

In the loss, the Legends were held to five hits, one of which was a home run by Epperson.

Epperson was tagged with the loss, pitching two-and-one-third of an inning, allowing five runs on two hits, issuing six walks and striking out three.

Despite the loss, Carr and the Legends took pride in knowing they represented Kentucky well, referring to a sign they saw in Cooperstown: "Records are meant to be broken. Through the years a certain few have become legends. Legends are forever."