There’s a pretty good chance a team from Johnston County will meet a team from Chatham County in the next two seasons of the Tar Heel Leagues, Inc. Junior Baseball State Championships. It will just be a continuation of a trend of battles between teams from the two counties over the past three seasons.
East Chatham Blue prevailed in the most recent state championship battle between the two, downing Southern Johnston Baseball Association South 6-3 in extra innings Sunday afternoon at the Susiegray McConnell Athletic Complex to wear the Little League (ages 11-12) state crown.
SJBA South defeated East Chatham Blue two seasons ago to win the Midget (ages 9-10) state championship.
East Chatham held SJBA South scoreless through four innings of the championship battle and was within five outs of an unbeaten run to this year’s state title when South found its bats. A.J. Byrd doubled and scored on Jeremy Hines’ ground out in the fifth to get SJBA South on the board, then Chase Carroll homered to start the bottom of the sixth inning, cutting the lead to 3-2. Cameron Massengill singled with one out, and later in the frame an error helped pinch runner Peyton Pennica (running for Massengill) score, forcing extra innings.
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SJBA South appeared poised to win the game in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with one out, but East Chatham threw a runner out at the plate on a groundout and then got another groundout to keep the game going.
Tyler Johnson capitalized on the shift in momentum for East Chatham, singling home two runs with one out in the top of the eighth, then scoring on a Landon Johnson double for a 6-3 lead.
South put its first two batters on base in the bottom half of the inning (singles by Massengill and Nolan Blackmon), but East Chatham turned a double play, then got another groundout to wrap up the state championship.
Massengill went 3-for-4 in the championship game for SJBA South, while teammate Ethan Weaver was 2-for-4 with a double.
Clayton finished third in the state Little League competition, with its only losses coming to the two finalist teams. Clayton won its opener against Edenton, then fell to East Chatham Blue before eliminating Broadway and Jamesville, to earn a shot to get into the championship round against SJBA South. South took that battle, moving into the championship round.
Midget League State Championships: Cleveland finished third in the Midget League state finals, downing Hildebran and SJBA South in its first two contests. Cleveland couldn’t keep the streak going, however, taking losses to Washington first and then Wendell in the battle to get to the championship round.
SJBA South wasn’t able to pick up a win on the state level, bowing out to Wendell after its opening night loss to Cleveland.
Coach-Pitch State Championships: Benson finished fourth in the Coach-Pitch division (ages 7-8), winning four consecutive elimination games before falling to Washington on Saturday.
Four Oaks tied for sixth in the state, winning its first two contests (over Wendell White and Cleveland), before taking losses to Louisburg and Washington.
Cleveland, which Benson eliminated, won its opener against Wilkes County National, then fell to Four Oaks and Benson and back-to-back games.