Nobody was expecting a pitchers’ duel when Bunn and Clayton squared off for the championship of the Johnston County Easter Invitational on Tuesday night.
Bunn freshman Malakai Morrow and Clayton sophomore Tyler Tuthill each got through five innings and the teams combined for only six hits as the Bunn Wildcats defended their title with a 2-1 win.
Bunn, of the Northern Carolina 2A, improved to 9-2 on the season. The Comets fell to 8-5.
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Morrow started and went five innings for Bunn, allowing a run on two hits with two strikeouts and no walks before Josh Boone came from behind the plate to get the save.
Tuthill went five-plus innings, allowing two runs – one earned – on two hits with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks.
Bunn’s Spencer Brickhouse, who played left field before catching the final two innings after picking up the victory in the semifinals, scored both of his team’s runs and was named the tournament most valuable player.
“This is a pretty special moment,” said Bunn coach Chris Cullom, a former Clayton assistant under current coach Stacey Houser. “I got my coaching start at Clayton and to have a chance to coach against coach Houser is quite an honor.
“This is a really big deal for us. We’ve just played exceptionally well on this field. We’ve pitched when we needed to, we’ve swung the bat when we needed to. It seems like we’ve made games closer than they should be, but I’ve been proud of the way my kids have battled here.”
Houser said his team needed just a little more offense.
“They executed a little more than we did, and they took better advantage of their opportunities,” Houser said. “We had opportunities and didn’t get the runs across. We were thinking it would be a little more high-scoring. But neither team swung the bat well. They just got one more run across than we did.”
Bunn went ahead 1-0 in the first as Brickhouse walked and advanced on a pair of wild pitches before scoring on Davie Morgan’s flyout to right.
“We scratched away and played some small ball,” said Brickhouse, who has signed with East Carolina and is projected to be picked in the early rounds of the Major League Draft in June. “You’re not always going to hit long balls and get several doubles in the inning. Sometimes you just have to take it one base at a time and just play smart. Tonight was one of those nights.”
But the Comets came back to tie in the bottom of the inning. Dylan Omana doubled to right-center and took third on a wild pitch before coming home on Drew Boumenot’s grounder to shortstop.
But that was all the scoring the Comets got.
“I had a lot of pressure on me tonight,” Morrow said. “But fortunately the guys played a great game. I just did what my coaches told me and relied on my curveball.”
Added Boone, “I knew I would have to pitch well. I threw a lot of breaking balls and change-ups to set up my fastball. I love coming in in tight situations with adrenaline rushing.”
Bunn added the winner in the sixth as Brickhouse hit a single to second, stole second, took third as Jordan Payne reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a pickoff error.
Tuthill said he was fairly pleased with the way he pitched but disappointed with the loss.
“I was able to throw strikes and my fastball was working pretty well,” the left-hander said. “I just tried to attack Brickhouse and go strong at him. He’s a great hitter.”
2016 Johnston County Easter Tournament
John Stott Memorial Most Valuable Player: Spencer Brickhouse (Bunn)
Andy Pleasant Most Hits Award: Andre Wilson (West Johnston) and Noah Bridges (South Johnston)
Pat Smith Outstanding Defensive Player Award: Josh Boone (Bunn)
All-Tournament Team: Zach Bridges (South Johnston), Garrett Giddens (West Johnston), Seth Gooding (Cleveland), Zach Greene (Clayton), Hunter Hood (West Johnston), Charlie Horne (Smithfield-Selma), Blake Joyner (Clayton), Brennan Linfield (Cleveland), Conner McKeithan (Bunn), Austin Medlin (Bunn), Davie Morgan (Bunn), Landry Moore (Cleveland), Malakai Morrow (Bunn), Rex Pope (Harnett Central), Tyler Tuthill (Clayton), Tyler Vaughn (Triton), Brooks Verona (Clayton), Andre Wilson (West Johnston)
Home Run Derby Champion: Spencer Brickhouse (Bunn)
March 26 Results
Game 1: Clayton 13, Smithfield-Selma 3
Game 2: West Johnston 9, Triton1
Game 3: Cleveland 10, Harnett Central 1
Game 4: Bunn 5, South Johnston 3
March 28 Results
Game 5: Smithfield-Selma 6, Triton 5
Game 6: South Johnston 3, Harnett Central 1
Game 7: Clayton 9, West Johnston 8
Game 8: Bunn 7, Cleveland 6
March 29 Results
Game 9, Seventh Place: Harnett Central 14, Triton 13
Game 10, Fifth Place: South Johnston 10, Smithfield-Selma 1
Game 11, Third Place: Cleveland 8, West Johnston 1
Game 12, Championship: Bunn 2, Clayton 1