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KERNERSVILLE — After a pair of impressive victories to start the North Carolina Little League Baseball Ages 11-12 Tournament, the trick now for the Wilson City Little League All-Stars is to stay focused.
Wilson, the District 6 champion, smashed District 1 king Rutherfordton 16-2 in four innings on Saturday in the second game of the tournament, hosted by Kernersville Little League, before roaring past District 5 champion North Asheville 19-0 in three innings Sunday. That put Wilson into the winners bracket final Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Lake Norman, which advanced Sunday with a 4-0 conquest of perennial Wilson rival Greenville Tar Heel.
“They’re playing loose, playing confident,” said Wilson head coach Chris Bass, who is assisted by Rob Ferrell and Chris Radford. “They’re coming to the ballfield with a purpose. It was fun to watch today.”
Indeed, after the first two Wilson batters were retired in the top of the first inning, Seth Evans was hit by a pitch. Joe Glover then cracked the first of five doubles as Wilson scored seven runs — all with two out. Also smacking doubles were Carter Adams, DeAndre Sellars and Simon Quinn.
That output was more than enough for Adams, who needed just 34 pitches to throw two shutout innings. Adams, who threw 20 pitches in Saturday’s start, gave up two singles and walked one while striking out one. Evans struck out the side in the bottom of the third on 11 pitches. That came a day after North Asheville rolled past McDowell County 12-7 in the opening game of the state tournament.
With pitching management the name of the game in double-elimination tournaments, Bass goes into Tuesday’s game with literally everybody available since all 13 players on the Wilson roster are capable of pitching.
The offensive onslaught continued with five more runs in the second for Wilson, triggered by Evans’ lead-off home run over the left-field fence at Clements Field. Tyson Foster stroked an RBI double and Connor Radford doubled in two more runs.
Glover and Tyson each homered in Wilson’s seven-run third inning.
Radford was 3 for 4 with two of Wilson’s seven doubles while driving in four runs while Glover was 3 for 4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs. Quinn and Foster each had two hits.
Wilson finished with 15 hits, giving it 34 runs and 27 hits in two games.
Bass said that the District 6 tournament, won by Wilson at Gillette Baseball Complex over a week ago, was tougher than the state tournament so far.
“We were fortunate to be on this end of the bracket,” he said.
In Saturday’s first-round game at Civitan Field, Wilson scored in each inning and pounded out 12 hits in a 16-2 romp that ended via the mercy rule after the fourth inning. Adams, Evans and Glover each homered for Wilson, which also benefited from five Rutherfordton errors.
Wilson got on the scoreboard in the first inning when Glover rapped a two-out single to score Radford, who led off the game by reaching first base on a dropped third strike. The lead grew to 4-0 in the second inning on RBI singles by Radford and Ryan Bass along with a Rutherfordton error that allowed another Wilson run to score. Adams swatted a one-out homer to right field to push the WCLL advantage to 5-0 in the top of the third.
Adams, who started on the mound for Wilson, retired the first five Rutherfordton batters before giving way to Foster in the third. Foster gave up one walk and struck out three in his 1 1/3 hitless innings.
The floodgates opened in the top of the fourth as Wilson scored 11 runs on five hits, including a three-run home by Glover and a grand slam by Evans.
Rutherfordton got its first hit in the fourth, part of a two-hit inning that led to both runs.
Bass was 3 for 4 to lead Wilson while Evans and Glover each drove in four runs and Adams knocked in a pair. Foster, who was 1 for 2 with double, and Adams combined for three hitless innings for Wilson.
Bass, who directed Wilson to the Ages 10-11 state championship in 2014 at Kernersville, hopes his team doesn’t lose any momentum with its off day Monday.
“They’re going fishing and they’ve got all kinds of plans for tomorrow,” he said. “I told them to come back Tuesday ready to play and to stay out of the pool. So far, they haven’t needed any persuasion to be focused. They’ve come very eager every day. If they stay that way, they’re going to be hard to beat.”
MORE BASEBALL FOR 9-10s
The WCLL Ages 9-10 All-Stars, who lost to Greenville in the state tournament championship this week, have been given a chance to continue playing.
The Tournament of State Champions, which pits state championship teams from Little League’s Southeast Region, announced Sunday that the Alabama state champion and runner-up team both declined invitations to the tournament at Greenville’s Elm Street Park.
Thus, Wilson was chosen as an alternate for the double-elimination tournament that will begin Friday, July 19.