DRAFFENVILLE – A repeat of last year’s American Legion Junior State Tournament championship would have been painful for Ashland Post 76.
A year ago, Paducah’s Chief Paduke Post 31 team came out of the loser’s bracket and swept Ashland in two Sunday games to win its second straight title.
On Sunday at Mike Miller Park, Ashland faced Paducah again, and after Post 31 took a 6-4 victory to send the tourney into a deciding second game, the stage was set for another dramatic comeback and another Post 31 title.
But Post 31’s pitching staff was out of gas and its bats were mostly silent, and Ashland showed no mercy. The 76ers pounded out 18 hits, held Paducah to only a pair of singles and roared to a 16-2 victory in the clincher.
Ashland marched through the tournament with wins over Oldham County Post 39 on Friday and Paducah on Saturday to cruise into the championship round.
Coach Chip Cox’s Paducah squad was ready to give Ashland a fight on Sunday, but the effort fell short.
Paducah won a play-in game on Thursday against Metcalfe County Post 65 and then exploded for 19 runs to beat Calvert City Post 236 on Friday.
An 8-2 loss to Ashland in the championship bracket Saturday sent them to the consolation bracket, where they ousted Metcalfe 2-1 to gain the rematch against Ashland.
In Sunday’s first game, Ashland took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but Paducah pushed three runs across in the top of the second and extended the lead to 4-1 after three innings.
Post 31 added two more runs in the top of the seventh and the insurance turned out to be decisive. Post 76 mounted a rally, scoring three runs and bringing the winning run to the plate before Post 31 escaped with the win by getting a ground-out and sending the championship to a second game.
Post 76 jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and made it 7-0 before Paducah got on the scoreboard.
But the 76ers were rolled, and they built the lead to 16-1 before Paducah added a second run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The contest ended by the mercy rule at that point.
Paducah 031 000 2 – 6 11 1
Ashland 100 000 3 – 4 6 5
WP: Gavin Henshaw LP: Austin Brinkman
Ashland 434 23 – 16 18 1
Paducah 010 01 – 2 2 2
WP: Andrew Rice LP: Jake Duncan