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Spirits high despite rain as GABP hosts Pitch, Hit & Run

CINCINNATI -- Steady rain throughout Saturday morning wasn't going to keep more than 20 youngsters from competing in the team championship portion of Pitch, Hit & Run at Great American Ball Park.

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As a result of the weather, only the hitting segment occurred on the field, while pitching and running took place in covered areas throughout the stadium. Participants of four different age groups were scored on their ability to hit a target while throwing six pitches, their speed running the bases and the distance they could hit a ball off a tee. The boys used baseballs and the girls used softballs during the competition.

All of the participants were awarded a plaque, and the eight first-place winners were set to be recognized before Saturday night's Reds-Marlins game at Great American Ball Park.

Despite the poor weather conditions, Queen City native Karlie Jackson was happy to compete and learn the ins and outs of a Major League ballpark.

"I liked that we got to go around the whole stadium and stuff; that was pretty fun," said Jackson, who won the 13-14-year-old girls division. "It was a good experience to have. Most people don't get to do it, so that was pretty good."

Like Jackson, Grady Johnson was a little thrown off by the different playing conditions, but luckily for him, he had his older brother there to lean on. Grady and Max Johnson both participated on Saturday, with Grady finishing in second place in the 9-10-year-old boys division and Max winning the 11-12-year-old boys division.

Grady Johnson said that he went to his older brother for advice throughout the competition, which wasn't a bad idea since Max was a Pitch, Hit & Run national finalist in 2011.

"[Max] told me to slow down and relax when I'm pitching," Grady Johnson said. "For my hitting, he just said, 'Hit the ball, hit the ball, whatever you need to do to hit that ball.'"

The eight Cincy winners could continue on to compete in the Pitch, Hit & Run National Championship during All-Star Week on July 13 before the Home Run Derby. The top three scores of each age group from the 30 MLB team championships will move on to the national competition. The winners will get to shag fly balls during the Derby and attend the All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park.

The finalists will be announced on June 28 on MLB Network.

"It was awesome. I'm always going to remember that," Max Johnson said of his experience in 2011. "You got to shag balls at the Home Run Derby, you got to go on the field, meet all these awesome players. It was amazing."

The winners of each group on Saturday at Great American Ball Park include:
Addison Herrin of Greenfield, Ind. (7-8 girls)
Lilly Stewart of Greenfield, Ind. (9-10 girls)
Mackenzie Bridgeman of New Castle, Ind. (11-12 girls)
Karlie Jackson of Cincinnati (13-14 girls)
Hayden Frey of Troy, Ohio (7-8 boys)
Eli Butt of Brookville, Ind. (9-10 boys)
Max Johnson of Mason, Ohio (11-12 boys)
Andruw Criswell of Trenton, Tenn. (13-14 boys)

Robert Bondy is an associate reporter for
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