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CHARLOTTE — A spirited run through the losers bracket of the North Carolina Little League Ages 9-10 tournament came to an end Thursday night for the Wilson City Little League All-Stars at Keith Stadium.
After avenging the loss that placed it in the losers bracket Wednesday night against Winston-Salem National, Wilson had no answers for an undefeated Greenville Tar Heel team that produced seven runs in the fourth inning to enforce the mercy rule with a 10-0 decision. Two victories were required of Wilson in order to win its third straight age-group state title.
Luke Tyndall’s two-run single terminated the game in the bottom of the fourth after Greenville chased Wilson starting pitcher Camden Efird.
Wilson trailed 1-0 after one inning and put a pair of runners on in the second, but could not scratch. Greenville replied with two run-scoring singles to take a 3-0 cushion into the third.
The score stayed that way in the fourth, when lightning in the area summoned the teams off the field with a 1-0 count to Wilson’s Charlie Scott in the top of the fourth. An 82-minute delay followed, and once Wilson was held scoreless in the fourth after resumption, Greenville ended it with a seven-run fourth.
After beating Lake Norman 4-3 in the opening round and falling to Winston-Salem in a winners bracket duel, Wilson clawed back to the title game with a 15-8 victory over Cherryville, a 6-3 conquest of Lake Norman and beating Winston-Salem 7-4 on Wednesday.
Like all levels, Little League Baseball can come down to a battle of bullpens.
Wilson’s bullpen won the battle with Winston-Salem National on Wednesday night, forcing starter Charlie Gallimore from the game and teeing off on relief pitching, pushing across five runs in the fourth inning to erase an early deficit and secure the trip to the championship round.
For the second straight contest against Gallimore and Winston-Salem, the Wilson bats struggled to get much traction, as Winston-Salem carried a 1-0 lead into the fourth. But once there, Charlie Scott extended Gallimore into an 11-pitch at-bat before his RBI single into right center plated pinch runner Trey Mills to tie the game. That sequence forced Gallimore to hit his pitch limit, and Wilson extended for four additional runs off Winston-Salem reliever Carter Huff.
“We were off balance for much of the first 3 innings,” Wilson assistant coach Dewey Scott explained. However, we felt like this game would come down to a battle of the bullpens, and felt confident we would explode for some runs once (Gallimore) reached his pitch limit.”
Peyton Gardner kept Winston-Salem’s offense in check despite scattering six hits. He struck out three and yielded his only run in the third. While Wilson was outhit by a 10-7 margin, it produced timely approaches at the plate. Catcher Josef Popowitch slugged a two-run double in the fifth to extend the lead to 7-1. It was the only extra-base hit for Wilson, as Popowitch finished 1 for 2 with a double. Stone Massey was the only Wilson player with more than one hit, finishing 2 for 3.
Winston-Salem was hampered by leaving 11 runners aboard the basepaths, but plated two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to bring the tying run to the plate. That’s when Wilson made the move to Landon High, the fifth pitcher of the contest. He struck out the only batter he faced with two outs, ending matters and sending Wilson into Thursday’s championship round.
Angel Saldana and Mack Wiggins also hit safely for Wilson. Mills laced a pinch-hit single off Gallimore in the fourth and came around to score on Scott’s tying hit. Jake Joyner was credited with a pair of RBIs in one plate appearance.
Gallimore took the loss for Winston-Salem, allowing three hits over his 3 1/3 innings of work.
Score by innings:
Wilson 000 520 — 7
Winston-Salem 001 021 — 4
WP-Peyton Gardner 3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO. LP-Charlie Gallimore 3 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 SO. S- Landon High 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Stone Massey 2-3, Mack Wiggins 1-3, Trey Mills 1-1, Charlie Scott 1-4, RBI, Angel Saldana 1-1, Josef Popowitch 1-2, 2B, 2 RBI