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KERNERSVILLE -— After scoring 35 runs in their first two games and then taking a day off at the North Carolina Little League Baseball Ages 11-12 Tournament, the Wilson City Little League All-Stars needed to jump-start their offense in Tuesday’s winners bracket final against Lake Norman.
Wilson, which had scored in every inning of its first two games, was staring at a trio of zeros on the scoreboard going into the bottom of the fourth inning at Clements Field.
“They were a little bit too ready to play,” said Wilson head coach Chris Bass, who is assisted by Rob Ferrell and Chris Radford. “They actually came a little too jacked up, I think, and it took them a little bit to settle in.”
By “settle in,” Bass meant explode and Lake Norman’s 1-0 lead was about to be history as Wilson rolled to a 9-1 victory and into the championship bracket.
Wilson, the District 6 champion, earned another day off and will to win just the second Ages 11-12 state championship in league history when it plays Thursday against Lake Norman or East Surry. Those two teams will play Wednesday in the losers bracket final after East Surry eliminated Greenville Tar Heel 6-5 in Tuesday’s late game.
The nine-run outburst began with three in the fourth, charged by a familiar power source.
Ryan Bass poked a lead-off single before Seth Evans unloaded on an 0-1 pitch for a two-run home run over the center-field fence for his third homer of the tournament. Not to be outdone, the next batter, Joe Glover, drilled a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right for his third longball of the week. All of a sudden, Wilson led 3-1.
“We knew it was coming some time,” Chris Bass said of the power surge.
After Evans worked around a one-out single to retire Lake Norman in the top of the fifth, the Wilson offense went back to work.
Connor Radford laced a lead-off double and took third on a grounder by Ryan Bass. Lake Norman coaches then elected to intentionally walk Evans and Glover to set up a force play with Carter Adams coming up and Tyson Foster and DeAndre Sellars to follow.
“That was not very smart, in my opinion,” Chris Bass said. “You’ve got Carter, DeAndre and Tyson coming behind Joe.”
Adams singled in Radford, leading to a pitching change for Lake Norman, the District 3 champion. After a wild pitch that scored another run, Foster then made the decision to load the bases hurt more by singling in two more for a 6-1 Wilson lead.
Lake Norman’s woes were compounded by an error that sent two more Wilson runners across the plate.
Glover was the only Wilson batter with two hits but eight others had one hit each. While the continued offensive dominance, even a bit delayed, was good news, even better was the fact that all Wilson pitchers are available to throw the maximum number of pitches Thursday. Adams started and went 3 1/3 innings, giving up one earned run on two hits and a walk while striking out one. Evans pitched the last 2 2/3 innings, giving up two singles and striking out three.
Chris Bass praised the defensive play of Radford at shortstop.
“He made plays you couldn’t see on the (Gamechanger play-by-play) app and kind of kept things in check for the other team,” Bass said.
Bass said he told his players they could go swimming Tuesday night but the pool was off limits Wednesday. But he admitted that they were likely to be overly excited again Thursday.
“I told them there’s no need to get jacked up,” he said. “It’s just a baseball game. When it boils down to it, it’s just a baseball game. But I like the energy. I’d rather have them too jacked up than not jacked up.”