MAUMEE — The Eaton Little League Senior All-Star team finished the season as state runners-up after losing to eight time state champion East Holmes in the state finals on Tuesday, July 21.
Eaton head coach Kevin Melling praised the strength of the East Holmes squad after the loss but said he was proud of his team for coming together so quickly.
The team played six games in a five day stretch in Maumee, compared to just three for East Holmes and Melling said eventually his pitching staff was depleted due to Little Leagues pitch count rules.
The team got off to a fast start in the state tournament beating Geneva United 8-1. Ghye Wilson, KJ Melling, Colton Gray and Austin Day shared the pitching duties combining to strike out 15 batters only allowing two hits and four walks for one run.
Donnie Nicodemus and Gray hit homeruns in the game for Eaton with Gray hitting two on the game.
Eaton then moved on to play East Holmes and battle for the majority of the game before giving up nine runs combined in the fifth and sixth inning bloating the final score to 10-1.
Melling said the pitch count forced him to go a reliever early and “the wheels just kind of came off the bus all at once”. Melling said he told his team afterwards the final score was not an indication of how well they played and told his team “we put a little scare in them.”
Eaton was bumped to the losers bracket of tournament where they were able to defeat Oxford Little League to move on to the finals of the losers bracket.
Melling saved his ace Nicodemus for the finals of the losers bracket as they took on the host team from Maumee. The offense scored five in the first which gave Nicodemus plenty of space as he gave his team a strong four innings and Melling came in to the close the game off.
Melling said he was already proud of his team for fighting through the loser bracket and continuing to fight but without their two top pitchers Eaton was unable to defeat the East Holmes Powerhouse who claimed yet another state title in the final game.
Melling said East Holmes won the regional and will represent the region at the Little League Senior World Series.
The team started the All-Star season strong by going undefeated through three games in District pool play. The team beat Huber Heights 13-3 in five innings, then beat Englewood 11-1, before beating Northridge 20-1 in the final game of pool play. Lew Bowser, Melling and Ryan Johnson took home victories on the mound for the team.
In the Championship game for the Districts the team once again took on rival Englewood. Kevin Melling saved Nicodemus through pool play and allowed the pitcher to take the mound in the championship game.
Nicodemus gave his team a chance to win the game by pitching four complete innings striking out nine batters but gave up seven walks. Englewood though committed the most mistakes on the night committing seven errors which helped spark a six fun fourth inning for Eaton.
Wilson came into to close the game out in the last three innings as he struck out five, giving up one run on one hit. Eaton went on to win the game and district title 8-1.
The victory marked the sixth time the core of players visited the state tournament in their little league careers reaching state at ages 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 and now 16.
The team feature players from mostly from Eaton with two from West Alexandria since according to Melling. He also said the league can now accept players from outside of Eatonschool districts and can accept from all Preble County Schools
Melling praised all sixteen players on the team saying not everyone got the most playing time but everyone did the job they were supposed to do something he says will make any coach happy. He also said the team had a “never say die attitude” that contributed to such a successful little league run.
Those players were, Wilson, Shelby Ward, Dalton Walters, Braydon Shanefelt, Nicodemus, Melling, Jordan Lewis, Ryan Johnson, Colton Gray, Henry Durham, Bowser, Jack Bieker Daniel Howard, Austin Day, Izik Paxson, and Coleman Foster.
Melling also wanted thank the team’s sponsors WINGS ETC, Henny Penny, EMT Inc., Eagle Fence, Younique By Amber Logan-Cheek, Shelley Gray, Big Hill GMAC Reality.