The drive from Central Point to Wheatland, Wyo., seemed to drag on, and on and on for the Comets American Legion A baseball team. When their vans finally arrived, the local squad played like a mad dog let off the leash.
Central Point capped a dominant, offensive-fueled stretch at the regional tournament with a 10-0 victory over Northern Utah in the championship game on Tuesday.
RECAP: The Comets record 14 hits en route to the championship victory at the American Legion A regional tournament. Ty Fox was named the tournament MVP.
The Comets (40-13) were hardly challenged in their first appearance at regionals, going undefeated while piling up 74 hits (including 15 extra-base hits), a .423 batting average, 67 runs and 17 stolen bases in five contests.
But the road ends here for Central Point. Postseason action does not extend beyond regional competition at the A level.
Comets head coach Jay Campbell said he'd be curious to see how his squad would fare in a meeting of regional victors.
"If there was such a thing I would like our chances," he said. "We just put it all together."
After it clinched the title, the team gathered in a huddle and jumped up and down in celebration.
They were excited, Campbell said, but also very tired.
"Those five-day tournaments are tough," he said. "We were able to battle through, but anytime you are 21 hours from home and not eating good food and not sleeping in your own bed, it can be challenging. The kids were able to stay focused and handle it."
Central Point didn't show any signs of fatigue against Northern Utah.
A sacrifice fly by Ty Fox, single by Gunnar Asher and groundout by Ty Plankenhorn all drove in runs in the first inning, giving the Comets a quick 3-0 lead.
"That really took the wind out of their sails," Campbell said.
Fox — who was named the most valuable player of the tournament — added an RBI single in the second to bring home Taylor Tibbets, who got on base with a double.
Zach Lathrop hit a two-run single and Plankenhorn added an RBI single in the fourth, when Central Point led 7-0.
Tibbets went 3-for-4 with four runs scored and Fox, Asher and Lathrop all had two hits and two RBIs apiece. Paul Turner finished 2-for-5 with a run.
"It was a favorable ballpark, but we had hardly any bloopers," Campbell said. "The balls we hit were hit hard."
Starting pitcher Asher improved to 7-1 after allowing four hits and two walks and striking out three. Fox finished things off in the seventh.
The Comets were given a trophy and championship banner. They were also selected as the sportsmanship team of the tournament. The accolades were great, Campbell said, but he is even more excited about the memories made.
"It was fun for the kids to see and realize they can play that good of baseball," he said. "It is something they will remember for a lifetime. The memories from the trip and bonding, that is what it's all about."
And Campbell is already thinking about the future — in particular, a spring high school season at Crater with essentially the same roster.
"They got a taste of what it's like to be a champion at one level," he said. "Now we have to figure out how to get a state championship in the spring."
Northern Utah 000 000 0 — 0 4 2
Central Point 310 312 x — 10 14 0
Rassmussen, Triplett (4) and Richards; Asher, Fox (7) and Aplin. W — Asher (7-1). L — Rassmussen. 2B — NU: Clemens; CP: Turner, Ryerson, Tibbets.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org