PORTSMOUTH – With a history of developing players and a winning tradition that spans over a course of nearly five decades, it’s no secret that the Midland Redskins have proven to be one of the best travel baseball teams in the country by becoming the Sixth Annual Gene Bennett Baseball Classic champions.
The Midland Redskins used a powerful 1-9 hitting lineup to go undefeated throughout pool and tournament play (8-0) to win its fourth GBBC title in six seasons with an 18-4 victory in five innings over the Midwest Marlins on Sunday evening at Branch Rickey Park in Portsmouth, Ohio.
The GBBC featured exciting action throughout the tournament as 21 of the classic’s 42 pool play games were decided by three runs or less, including 10 games that were decided by a total of one run. When the dust settled after pool, only three teams (Midland Redskins, Midwest Marlins, and the Huntington Hounds 18U squad) remained undefeated.
Tournament play commenced on Saturday and Sunday. The close-quartered action only intensified as the day wore on, with four of the final seven games being decided by a single run, including the semifinals of the Sixth Annual GBBC Tournament, where the top four seeds (Midland Redskins, the Midwest Marlins, the Huntington Hounds 18U squad and the Ohio Warhawks) survived Saturday’s competition to participate in Sunday’s semifinal contests.
What the fans got were two contests unlike any other in the tournament’s history. The first matchup featured the #2-seeded Marlins against the #3-seeded Hounds 18U squad at Wheelersburg High School. The Marlins jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Hounds 18U squad made a furious rally by getting a bases-loaded triple with two outs to tie the game and send the contest to extra innings. From there, both squads dueled it out for four innings before the Marlins sent the Hounds 18U squad home to advance to the title game.
The second semifinal contest, held at Branch Rickey Park, was just as good as if not better than the first semifinal matchup, as Redskins jumped out to a 4-2 lead before the Warhawks used a two-run blast by West Virginia University commit Marquis Inman – the only home run hit at Branch Rickey Park during the Gene Bennett Baseball Classic – to tie the game at four and send the second semifinal to extra innings as well.
For the next five innings, Redskins and Warhawks would duke it out as each team proceeded to bend but would fail to break under the pressure as they put multiple runners on base but failed to drive any home.
In the bottom of the 13th inning, the Redskins broke through, with runners on 1st and 3rd and two away in the frame, an infield error allowed Midland to score the walk-off run and advance to play the Marlins in the championship game.
The Redskins saved its best performance for last by scoring 18 runs (including an astonishing 13 in the second inning) to win against the Marlins with the aforementioned 18-4 tally on Sunday evening.
In addition to the great action featured on the baseball diamond throughout the four-day event, several individuals were honored with plaques that represented their contributions to the Portsmouth area during the Opening Ceremonies, including Rita Rice Morris, retiring President of Shawnee State University after 12 years of service, Terry Craft, who umpired 1,734 Major League Baseball contests (including two no-hitters, the 1997 MLB All-Star Game and the 2003 American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees) over a 20-year career, and the Scioto County Special Olympics who were presented with a $5,000 check by the Shawnee State University Development Foundation.
Following Sunday’s title game, five more individuals were honored with awards based on their overall play on the baseball diamond. Those individuals are as follows:
Gene Tenace Catching Award—Joseph Sibeto, junior, Ohio Warhawks
Larry Hisle Hustle Award—Trey Dawson, senior, Huntington Hounds (drafted by Detroit Tigers in 32nd round of 2015 MLB Draft)
Rocky Nelson Defense Award – Jacob Bolton, senior, Midwest Marlins
Don Gullett Pitching Award—Nick Bennett, junior, Midland Redskins
Al Oliver Hitter Award—Austin McNicholas, junior, Midland Redskins
Bennett, a Louisville commit, threw a no-hitter against the Warhawks on Thursday evening to take home the Don Gullett Pitching Award. Bolton and Dawson are middle infielders who are committed to Morehead State University and Louisiana State University, respectively, with the latter being a draft pick of the Detroit Tigers. McNicholas is a longtime Texas commitment while Sibeto is an uncommitted prospect in the class of 2016.
For more information on the GBBC, contact Chris Moore at [email protected] or follow the GBBC on Twitter @GBBClassic, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/genebennettclassic, or on the Shawnee State University website at www.shawnee.edu/gene-bennett-classic.