TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
OLDHAM COUNTY — In the end, North Laurel only needed one run to win the Senior League state championship.
North Laurel’s Austin Rudder led the game off getting hit by a pitch and advanced to second base on a Dylan Messer single and eventually scored on an RBI single by Ray Hays and that’s all North Laurel needed to pull out a 1-0 win over Richmond.
The state championship win advances North Laurel to Central Region play in Peru, Ill.
“This was great,” North Laurel coach Bill Abner said. “Our guys really played well the entire tournament. We will be sending a representative to the Central Region Tournament, but we might not have some of our players because of vacations being taken and football starting up.
“No matter which level you win a state championship at, it’s still big,” he added. “I won one with North Laurel as an assistant softball coach in 2001 and this was just as good. These guys have been playing ball together for 13 years and they have fought and worked hard to get to this point.”
The team won the District 4 championship as 12-year-olds and won the Junior League District 4 Tournament last year before finishing as state runner-up.
“This feels good,” Abner said. “I really thought we were going to score more runs, though. I thought we’d score around 10 because the pitcher Richmond threw was a junk-baller and I thought we’d overpower him, but we didn’t.
“We only had one more hit after the first inning,” he added. “The game lasted only one hour and 10 minutes, so both teams did a great job out there.”
North Laurel received another solid pitching effort from Hays, who pitched a complete game five-hit shut out. He struck out five batters and only walked two batters.
“Ray Hays was sensational out there,” Abner said. “I thought our pitching was what separated us from all the other teams. Hays and Messer did a great job on the mound for us.”
The trio of Hays, Messer and Rudder combined to collect 16 of North Laurel’s 26 hits during All-Star play.
“They really hit the ball well,” Abner said. “They carried us offensively. This was a good experience for everyone and now we’ll see what we can do at the Central Region Tournament. It begins on Aug. 3 and runs through Aug. 7.”