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If there are certain laws or tenets to Little League Baseball, then the creed that no lead is safe should occupy a prominent spot at the top of the list.
The Wilson City Little League All-Stars put that on display in a bad way Tuesday night at Southern Bank Stadium.
Needing a single victory to end the North Carolina Little League District 6 Ages 9-11 tournament with a championship, Wilson’s offense boosted it to a 6-1 advantage entering the bottom of the third inning against Bull City.
Despite losing the lead, Wilson, serving as the visiting team, reclaimed it and stood three outs away from victory in the bottom of the sixth.
However, with four walks and an error in the bottom half, Wilson could not eke its way to extra innings as a full-count, bases-loaded pitch sailed wide of the strike zone with two outs, boosting Bull City to the 8-7 victory on a walk-off walk.
Therefore, Wilson and Bull City will engage in a winner-take-all game Wednesday night on field No. 2 at Gillette Baseball Complex for the district title and a trip to the state tournament, with first pitch set for 6 p.m.
Prior to the bottom of the sixth, Wilson’s defense and relief pitching performed well, putting it in a position to close it out in the sixth. Yet it unraveled after the first two Bull City runners reached base via walks and the third batter of the half inning, Gavin Cook, reaching on an infield error. That allowed leadoff batter J.P Rodio to come around to score, tying matters at 7.
“They’ve battled all weekend, and we’ve been in some tight games,” Wilson head coach Chris Radford said. “But today, it wasn’t our day. It’s Little League baseball. The guys did a great job; they listened to the coaches. One ball was the difference maker.”
Wilson nearly escaped the calamity and forced extra innings. Playing the outfield shallow after a passed ball advanced the winning run to third, reliever Seth Scott discarded the catching gear and induced a pair of flyouts to right field, holding Bull City’s Philip Daly at third. In between, Wilson intentionally walked Andrew Riedel to load the bases.
However, on a 3-2 count, Nello Caparoni did not offer at ball four, ending the game.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a walk,” Bull City head coach James Hash said. “I was really pleased with our discipline at the plate. It would have been real easy to chase a pitch or two, but our kids didn’t do that. We feel incredibly fortunate to get out of here with a win.”
Will Doll, who took the loss in relief for Wilson, entered in relief of C.J. Summerlin with two men on and two outs in the fifth and retired Bull City’s leadoff hitter to quell the threat. Scott’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly scored Maddox Deans, who singled, to give Wilson a 7-6 edge.
Defensively, Wilson put itself in position for a win before its tumultuous sixth inning with a snag up the middle by shortstop Jake Scott in the fifth. Summerlin, who pitched 2 1/3 innings of four-hit relief without allowing a run, turned in a leaping grab at shortstop to foil a Bull City threat in the second. Clinging to its one-run lead in the fourth, Moore, playing center field. cut down a would-be Bull City run at home with a strike to Scott to end the inning.
Wilson scored at least one run in the first four innings, stringing together five two-out hits in the first to take a 3-0 lead. Key was Daniel Holloman’s two-run double that ducked just inside the first-base line. Summerlin, who was 3 for 3 with a double and a run batted in, added a run-scoring single in the inning.
Doll drove in Harris for a 4-1 cushion in the second, and Trevor Moore’s single that was misplayed in right brought Summerlin across for a four-run cushion. Harris added a sacrifice fly that allowed Moore to score.
But Bull City batted around in the third, tying the game at 6 on the strength of five of its 10 hits. Cook’s two-run single and an RBI double from Riedel were key in the inning.
Ethan Greene won in relief for Bull City, retiring the final batter of the Wilson sixth before his team rallied.
Summerlin led Wilson with three hits, while Doll, starting pitcher Brayden Parker and Deans all had two hits. Wilson outhit Bull City in the loss by a 12-10 margin.
Nevertheless, Wilson’s position in the winners bracket ensures a mulligan entering Wednesday’s winner-take-all affair.
“We’ve got one more to do tomorrow,” Radford said. “We’re going to come back and take advantage of it.”
Score by innings:
Wilson 312 100 0 — 7
Bull City 105 000 2 — 8
WP-Ethan Greene 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO. LP-Will Doll 1/3 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Wilson: C.J. Summerlin 3-3, 2B, RBI, Brayden Parker 2-3, Will Doll 2-4, 2B, RBI, Maddox Deans 2-4; Bull City: Philip Daly 2-3, 2B, Gavin Cook 2-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI, Nello Caparoni 1-2, 2B, 2 RBI.