The Southern Johnston Baseball Association’s South Johnston Little League team and Cleveland’s Coach-Pitch team grabbed third place finishes at the Tar Heel Leagues Inc. State Championships held at Smithfield and Clayton community parks last weekend.
The event featured 32 teams from across the state battling for the championship.
Wendell was the big winner for the weekend, taking the Midget League (ages 9-10) and Coach-Pitch state titles. Williamston won the Little League state crown.
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The long ball helped both Williamston and East Chatham claim victories over South Johnston on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Williamston earned a 9-2 victory in the championship semifinal on Saturday.
Williamston’s Brandon Beach hit a three-run home run in the opening inning and put South behind from the outset. Chase Raynor had a two-run double for Williamston in the third as the lead grew to 6-1.
South’s Jacob Pollard hit a home run of his own in the third inning and the team then loaded the bases with two outs but couldn’t get any more runs across the rest of the way. Williamston hit another home run in the fourth inning.
Parker Wood had two hits for South in the loss.
East Chatham rode a two-home run performance by East Chatham shortstop Deuce Powell to a 7-2 win over South Johnston in the battle to get into the championship round on Sunday afternoon. Powell hit a two-run home run in the first and a three-run home run in the third.
South Johnston’s runs came on a long home run — to the base of the softball fence 30 feet away — from the bat of Jae’Quan Wells to start the bottom of the third inning and a bases loaded walk to Christian Pollard later in the inning. After getting out of the bases loaded jam, East Chatham pitchers faced the minimum number of South batters over the final three innings.
South opened its tournament runs with victories over Western Harnett and then Jamesville.
Clayton went 1-2 in the 11-12-year-old bracket, dropping its opener to eventual finalist Williamston. But a win over Zebulon followed on Friday, keeping Clayton alive. Jamesville eliminated Clayton on Saturday morning.
Garner Baseball Inc. also played in the Little League division, falling to Jamesville in the tournament opener, then taking a loss to Western Harnett in the first round of elimination games.
District V champion Cleveland American finished third in the Tar Heel Leagues Inc. Coach-Pitch Division State Tournament (ages 7-8) on Sunday at Smithfield Community Park. Cleveland fell victim to a late Wilkes County rally in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 5-4 loss.
Cleveland led 4-3 entering the bottom of the sixth inning against Wilkes County in what was a tight game throughout. Wilkes led 2-1 after the first inning, but Cleveland went ahead 3-2 in the top of the second before Wilkes tied the game at three in its half of the second.
Cleveland grabbed the go ahead run in the top of the third and that lead held until the sixth.
Braden Snaders, Isaac Garcia, Cannon Lee and Biscuit Soles scored runs for Cleveland in the loss.
Cleveland won its first two games in the tournament, downing Caldwell County, then Rolesville before dropping an unbeaten bracket game to Wilkes County early Saturday. But the local squad came right back with wins over Louisburg and Whitfield on Saturday afternoon to advance to the elimination bracket final against Wilkes County.
Northeast Johnston went 1-2 in the coach-pitch tournament, winning its opener against Louisburg before falling to eventual finalist Wilkes American in the second round. Williamston eliminated Northeast on Saturday morning.
Benson was unable to get a win in the event, falling to East Chatham, then Ashe County.
Clayton finished fourth in the Midget League state tournament for ages 9-10. After winning its tournament opener against Whitfield, Clayton fell to East Chatham Blue in the second round of winners’ bracket play. But a win over Western Harnett followed on Saturday morning, which moved Clayton into another elimination game against Hickory, which it lost late Saturday afternoon.
Cleveland had a tough go of it in the Midget bracket, dropping its opener to Wendell before being eliminated by Western Harnett on Friday.