The Southern Johnston Baseball Association’s South all-star team put together one of the most dominant performances in recent memory at the Tar Heel Leagues Inc. Midget League (ages 9-10) state championships last week, rolling to the state title with four dominating victories.
SJBA South captured the state title with a 5-2 win over East Chatham, ending a string of three straight wins by the mercy rule, but showing off a standout defense and pitching staff that may have been overlooked because South’s offense averaged more than 16 runs a game.
“The first three ballgames we just hit the baseball so well throughout our lineup,” said SJBA South coach Jason Parker said. “We didn’t hit the ball as well (in the championship) but our defense helped us out. That’s what always has to be there for you: defense and pitching.
“When you put great offense to go with that consistent defense and pitching they’re hard to beat.”
The championship game featured the familiar quick punch from the South offense with Parker Wood doubling and Chase Carroll following with a single to give Cameron Massengill a chance with two runners in scoring position.
Massengill shot a hard ground ball into right field, scoring both runners for a 2-0 South lead.
Bean Weathers got one of those runs back for East Chatham in the bottom half of the inning before pitching started to take over the afternoon.
South’s Carroll, Nolan Blackmon and Patrick Allen worked two innings each, sticking to the team formula of two innings per man per game throughout the tournament.
South pitchers struck out five batters and issued just two walks in the championship game.
“They’re pitcher (Tyler Johnson) did a great job today, threw a heck of a game,” Parker said. “Our defense gave us a shot to get it done.”
Johnson threw a complete game but fell victim to a South big inning in the fifth. Allen singled off of the East Chatham second baseman with the bases loaded, forcing Andre Garcia home.
Massengill followed with a deep fly to right field that scored both Wood and Carroll for a 5-1 lead.
East Chatham came up with a brief rally in the bottom of the sixth, putting two runners on base for Landon Johnson, who singled home a run with two outs. However, South’s defense ended the tournament.
South shortstop Ethan Weaver grabbed a line drive from Brandon Crabtree, then doubled up the runner on second base to end the game.
“I think this is the perfect end to this run for the 10-year-olds on this team,” Parker said. “Nine of the kids have been together for a long time and we’ve added some great kids along the way. You know what a team’s capable of when you’ve been with them for so long, but I didn’t see this coming – it happening so quickly.
“You never know how a team will play at this level but they were ready and they thrived on this stage.”
SJBA South beat Lenoir Youth Sports 14-4 in its opener, then rolled by West Chatham 14-4 in the winners bracket semifinals.
South beat Rocky Mount 15-4 in the championship round. SJBA South batters drilled three home runs.
Cole Winborne went deep to cap a six-run first inning for South, then Allen hit a 225-foot shot over the left field fence for a three-run homer in the second.
Massengill blasted a three-run home run in the fourth.
Weaver and Allen scored three runs each for South in the victory.
Cleveland advanced to the top four in the Coach Pitch (ages 7-8) division, beating East Chatham and Rocky Mount to start the tournament before falling to Edenton.
Cleveland came back with a 15-4 win over East Chatham in the losers bracket. Daniel Sterling, Christian Waters, Carson Barritt, Matthew Hall and Joseph Kelly all scored two runs each for Cleveland in the victory.
Cleveland finished fourth in the tournament, bowing out in the losers bracket final.
SJBA South took a tough loss in the opening round of the Little League (11-12) tournament but won elimination games over Williamston and Shelby before falling to Tarboro on the third day of competition. SJBA South ended up fifth in the state.
Johnston County’s Junior League (13-14) team went 1-2 in the tournament, falling to Angier before beating Louisburg. A victory over Riverside gave Johnston County a fifth-place finish in the state.