For The Daily Times
With a history of developing players with a penchant for success and a winning tradition that spans over a course of nearly five decades, it’s no secret that the Midland Redskins are one of the best travel baseball teams in the country.
Midland proved that again throughout the sixth annual Gene Bennett Baseball Classic. The Redskins went undefeated throughout pool and tournament play and won their fourth GBBC title in six seasons on Sunday at Branch Rickey Park.
There was exciting action from the get-go, as half of the games in pool play were decided by three runs or less. But when the dust settled, only three teams — Midland, the Marlins, and the Huntington Hounds 18U squad) — remained undefeated.
In the semifinals, the top four seeds (Midland, the Marlins, the Hounds, and the Ohio Warhawks) gave the fans two contests unlike any other in the tournament’s history.
The first matchup saw the second-seeded Marlins jump out to a 3-0 lead at Wheelersburg High School. But the third-seeded Hounds made a furious rally by getting a bases-loaded triple with two outs to tie the game at three and send the contest to extra innings. From there, both squads dueled it out for four innings before the Marlins sent home the winning run to walk-off with the victory and advance to the title game.
In the second semifinal at Branch Rickey Park, Midland jumped out to a 4-2 lead. But 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 tournament – to tie the game at four and send the second semifinal to extra innings as well.
Midland and Ohio would duked it out for five more scoreless innings. But in the bottom of the 13th inning, an infield error allowed Midland to score the walk-off run and advance to play the Marlins in the championship game.
In the championship game, Midland saved its best for last. They scored 18 runs — including 13 in the second inning — to take the championship 18-4.
After Sunday’s championship game, five players were presented with individual tournament awards. Nick Bennett, a Louisville commit from Midland, was presented with the Don Gullett Pitching Award. Bennett tossed a no-hitter against the Warhawks during pool play on June 11. Trey Dawson of the Huntington Hounds, a Detroit Tigers draftee and an LSU commit and was named the winner of the Larry Hisle Hustle Award. Jacob Bolton, a Morehead State commit of the Marlins was given the Rocky Nelson Defense Award. Texas Longhorn commit Austin McNicholas of Midland was presented with the Al Oliver Hitter Award. Joseph Sibeto of the Warhawks was named the tournament’s best catcher with the Gene Tenace Award.