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July 17, 2014

Eyes On The Prize

Knox County hopes for good showing in state tournament

KNOX COUNTY — The Knox County 11-year-old All-Stars have a tall task ahead of them, but head coach Jason Hembree said he feels like the team will be ready to go when the state tournament starts Saturday in Bowling Green.

“We’ve come out and put two solid hours of practice in every day, so I think we’ll be ready,” Hembree said. “If we aren’t ready, it won’t be for a lack of work because we have worked hard.

“We’ve done some scrimmage games against each other to try and keep the kids sharp, so we’ve gotten some playing time in as well as just practicing,” he added.

Knox County is in Pool A, which consists of Owensboro Southern (District 1), Paintsville (District 7), Lexington Eastern (District 3) and of course, Knox County (District 4). The team will spend the first three days playing a round-robin style schedule where they will face each of the other three teams once, starting with Eastern at 1 p.m. Saturday. They’ll face Paintsville Sunday at 1 p.m. and Owensboro Southern on Monday at 11 a.m.

The top two teams from each pool will advance and will be seeded before playing in Tuesday’s semifinals, pitting Pool A's No. 1 against Pool B’s No. 2 and vice-versa. The finals will be played at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

After battling back to win consecutive games against Corbin in the finals of the District 4 Tournament, Hembree said he likes the way his team is hitting the baseball, but admitted it would take more than hitting to win the state tournament.

“We’ve really been hitting the baseball hard, but I told our guys that we have to do more than that,” Hembree said. “We have to have good pitching and good defense as well. It takes a good all-around effort to win a state title.

“We have the talent to go a long way and I think our kids have a lot of mental toughness as well and they proved it the way they battled back in district play,” he added. “Hopefully we can put all those together because at this point, you can’t really have a bad game.”

Knox County Little League is no stranger to the big stage. Last year, the league’s 12-year-old All-Stars won the state title and went on to the Central Region Tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana. That was after the same group won a state title at the 11-year-old level the previous year. Hembree said his squad knows there are big shoes to fill considering the past, but he said he doesn’t really want to mention it possibly out more pressure on the team.

“Our guys are aware of what has been done in the past and I think they want to live up to those expectations,” Hembree said. “We probably won’t bring it up as far as a conversation, because I want them to enjoy the experience for what it is.

“You never know when you’ll have another opportunity like this, so it’s important for the kids to have as much fun as possible,” he added. “Hopefully our guys enjoy themselves and win some baseball games.”

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The soft whistle of a flute floated through the room as audience members listened in awe to tales of the Thunderbolt people. “This land that you’re now sitting on was that of Thunderbolt people,” said Thunderbolt descendant David Owens. Owens and Indian flute player Robert Mullinax stopped at the Laurel County Library Friday night to entertain with spoken legends, folk lore and tales of the bygone Thunderbolts. Audiences were captivated by stories passed down from the Thunderbolt of how things came to be. Tales about fire, pipes and Kentucky — just to name a few — were shared by Ownes over the course of an hour with Mullinax playing behind him.

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