Cleveland was the beneficiary of great relief pitching and produced enough offense late to pull away for a 6-3 win over the South Johnston Baseball Association South squad in the Tar Heel Leagues District V Midget League (ages 9-10) championship game Wednesday night at Smithfield Community Park.
Joseph Kelly came on in relief in the second inning and allowed just one run over the game’s final five innings to keep South in check, while Cleveland finally broke though with three key runs in the top of the fifth to move into the driver’s seat.
Zavion Ingram led off the fifth with a walk and advanced to third base on a pair of wild pitches. Ingram would then score the go-ahead run on a South Johnston error.
Later in the inning, Cannon Lee came through with the biggest hit of the contest, a two-run single to right field that plated Jake Cochran and Trevor Tuthill, to give Cleveland the 5-2 lead.
South responded in the bottom of the fifth on an Eli Price sacrifice fly that brought home Ryan Hudson but couldn’t scratch through with any more runs.
After Lleytner Lowry scored from third base on a wild pitch to give Cleveland an insurance run to start off the sixth, Kelly retired South Johnston’s No. 2-3-4 hitters in order in the bottom of the frame to secure the title.
Cochran scored the game’s first run in the opening inning when he trotted home on a wild pitch. Robbie Albaugh made the score 2-0 in the second when he advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and then home on a throwing error.
South Johnston knotted the score in the second inning after Hudson led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Later, with the bases loaded, Luke Norris drove a shot to centerfield that allowed Lucas Carpenter to score.
Norris struck out five in four innings of work for South Johnston.
Cleveland’s Tuthill paved the way for the champions with a pair of singles and a run while South Johnston’s Dylan Hinder reached base safely three times on a pair of singles and a walk.
Both teams now move on to the state tournament, which runs July 30 through Aug. 2 in Washington.