Diamond Kings: Mid-County finishes as strong as it started for first Babe Ruth World Series championship

Published 7:34 pm Saturday, August 12, 2017

By Steven Smith
Special to The News

EPHRATA, Wash. – There was no fanfare in the dugout of the Mid-County Senior Babe Ruth team. Just the quiet celebration reserved for champions.

That was after the dogpile, of course, that always comes from winning a World Series.

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Mid-County, the all-star team from Southeast Texas that has only played together for about seven weeks, captured the championship trophy at the Senior Babe Ruth World Series. The eight-day event concluded Saturday with the Texans scoring a 6-0 win over Team Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at Johnson-O’Brien Stadium.

On the path to the title, Mid-County, which plays a 12-game league season before picking an all-star team, took down some of the biggest select baseball programs in the nation. It started in July when manager Ben Rogers’ team beat the eight-time champion Alabama Rawdogs of Mobile for the Southwest region title, and ended with wins over the New England regional champions from Cape Cod in the title bout, and the Columbia Basin River Dogs, the 2015 national champions, in the semifinals Friday night.

“We haven’t been together that long. We played maybe 10, 11 games to get here,” Rogers said. “This is really going to help us with recruiting for our league.

“Last night, we talked about what Cape Cod had as a pitching staff and how we wanted to approach it,” he continued. “Their starting pitcher was pretty good. That first inning looks like we got going well, but really, it was just luck.”

In the title showdown, two Cape Cod errors, combined with hits from Kody Kolb, Logan LeJeune, Chase Kemp and Zach Friesz, allowed Mid-County to grab a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The score didn’t change until the bottom of the sixth when the Texas club got three more hits, including a two-run double from Burke Badon, to score their last three runs.

Mid-County was forced to make a pitching change early in the contest when starter Conner Kemp’s throwing shoulder started tightening up. But his older brother Chase Kemp, who had a win on the mound earlier in the tournament, stepped in and allowed TCC just three hits in the final five innings.

“Conner just couldn’t get his shoulder to loosen up, and he tried everything,” Rogers said. “But it was OK, his big brother took over. When I handed the ball to Chase, I started to talk to him and he just said, ‘Don’t worry coach, I got this.’”

Cape Cod finished with six hits to seven for Mid-County, and had nine baserunners during the contest, but just one that got as far as first base. That was in the second inning when Mac LaBarge and Nick Carr hit back-to-back singles.

Mid-County’s Brandon Morse was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and was named to the all-World Series team as a pitcher. Joining him on the all-tourney squad were Logan LeJeune and Zach Clark, while Zach Friesz was named to the All-Defensive team.

In six games, five different players were named as the Player of the Game, with Morse earning the award twice. Also being chosen were LeJeune, Chase Kemp, Conor McGrath and Kody Kolb.

**CORRECTED to reflect spelling of Conner Kemp**