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The strides in youth baseball in the Wilson community were convincingly displayed during a buzz of activity on J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex diamonds Monday evening.
North Carolina Little League District 6 competition continued with Wilson teams faring well in most age groups.
The Little League brand, in less than a decade, has provided a tremendous boost in the level of play.
Mine was the opportunity to view the Wilson All-Stars’ final game in the four-team North Carolina Little League District 6 Ages 8-9 tournament Monday night.
Wilson emerged the champion in the round-robin format with a 3-0 record as the result of outlasting South Durham 5-2 in nine innings — three extra innings.
South Durham, Bull City and East Chatham each posted 1-2 marks.
Immediately spotted was the ability of players at every position to handle routine plays. They could all catch pop flies. The pitchers threw strikes.
Not too distant in the past was the presence of maybe one outfielder who could catch routine fly balls on a consistent basis.
Outfielders from both teams handled their chances and Wilson left fielder Farris Carinci dazzled with a couple of shoestring catches — one that saved a run in the second inning.
Wilson also cut down a base runner at the plate to limit South Durham to one run in the first inning.
The teams were well-prepared and spiffily attired. They resembled and performed like “little pros.”
A nine-inning game of nearly 2 1/2 hours represents a stern challenge for the attention spans of 8- and 9-year-olds. But they played their hearts out.
A few tears were evident when Wilson’s bases-loaded threat in the top of the eighth inning ended with a double play. However, coaches Eric Lewis, Dewey Scott and Zack Wiggins did an excellent job in keeping the players focused.
Who knows? Years from now, some of those players might look back upon the experience as a valuable life lesson. Baseball does that.
TOUGH LITTLE NUT
Standout individuals were numerous.
Wilson catcher Connor Lewis batted 4 for 5 and seemed to be in the midst of every development.
The Lewis youth has taken his lumps in his front yard the past couple of years in competing with two older — and much taller — brothers. But he’s now reaping the dividends.
He’s a hard-nosed player for his age — he’s one “tough little nut.”
The Lewises are across-the-street neighbors and the frequent throwback scenes in their front yard remind me of my youth when baseball was oh so prominent.
I remember the expectations my middle sibling — 15 months younger than myself — and I placed upon the youngest of the three Ham boys.
My youngest brother, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman with excellent size for his age, emerged into the most dominating Little League player I’ve ever seen.
I realize I’m prejudiced and that Greene County and the surrounding area ain’t no big place. But just saying.
Back to the present. For Wilson on Monday night, Peyton Gardner and Landon High each batted 2 for 3. Mack Wiggins went 1 for 2 and scored the go-ahead run. Stone Massey doubled in the go-ahead run.
Wilson received stout pitching from starter Cameron Efird, High and Massey.
Massey, probably the biggest player on the field, squelched South Durham’s seventh-inning threat by inducing a double play and proceeded to overpower South Durham hitters the last two innings in notching the win.
“Which high school team does (Massey) pitch for?” a South Durham coach inquired.
Finally, must extend an apology to Mack Wiggins, who started the ninth-inning rally with a single instead of drawing a walk as Tuesday’s report in The Wilson Times sports section stated.
In haste, I misread the play-by-play report. Maybe I should keep a scorebook the next game.
Nonetheless, good luck, guys, in the state tournament to be played at Gillette on July 6-13.