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It got a little hairy at the end of the game but Seth Evans’ three-run home run was just as big a hit by the sixth inning as it was in the first for the Wilson City Little League All-Stars in their 4-1 victory over Greenville Tar Heel in Monday’s pivotal North Carolina Little League Ages 9-11 State Tournament game.
Evans’ blast, which soared well above the left-field fence at Southern Bank Stadium, gave District 6 champion Wilson all the runs it would need in the win that sent it directly to Wednesday’s championship game. It was also a little payback to the Greenville Tar Heel team that defeated Wilson twice in the 2017 Ages 9-10 State Tournament in Forest City — in the first round and in the championship game.
“Oh man, it’s astronomical,” Wilson head coach Chris Bass said of Monday’s win. “It’s as big as it can get to get to the championship game without a loss.”
Wilson now waits to see if, like it did last year in Forest City, Greenville Tar Heel will navigate the losers bracket and show up in Wednesday’s championship game. Greenville will face Myers Park Trinity of Charlotte in Tuesday’s elimination game, which Myers Park reached with a 1-0 win over King in Monday’s nightcap at Southern Bank Stadium.
Wilson got going offensively right off the bat as Connor Radford and Ryan Bass drew consecutive walks off Greenville starter Jack West to start the bottom of the first. After Carter Adams’ grounder that forced Radford at third, Evans drilled a 2-0 pitch from West well over the fence in left for a 3-0 lead, stunning Greenville, the District 4 champion.
That would be all the scoring until the home half of the fifth when Bass smoked a leadoff triple and scored on Adams’ groundout to the shortstop.
Besides Evans’ bomb, the big story for Wilson was the outstanding pitching by Joe Glover, Radford and, ultimately, Simon Quinn — and some rock-solid defense.
“The defense played as good as it could play,” Chris Bass said. “That was as good a Little League game as you can get.”
Glover sparkled in a starting role, holding Greenville scoreless through his 3 1/3 innings. After Ryker Butcher’s one-out double in the top of the third for Greenville, Glover negotiated his way out of trouble by getting a pair of grounders that Evans fielded flawlessly at third base to quell the threat.
Chris Bass pointed out that he wanted to limit Glover to 35 pitches so that he would be available Wednesday. The Wilson skipper was startled after the game when he realized that Glover made it through one batter in the fourth inning before he got to that total.
“I was hoping to get two (innings) and something out of him and to get three and something was just great!” Bass said.
After Glover exited with one out in the top of the fourth, Radford got himself in trouble as he issued two walks sandwiched around Derrion Goodis’ single. But Radford got out of it unscathed by striking out a Greenville batter and getting the next to ground out back to him. After giving up just a two-out single in the fifth, Radford ran into trouble again right away in the sixth. He walked the first two Greenville batters before Max Mason delivered an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-1.
Radford then started the next batter, Quinn McCaffery, with two balls, ending his stint on the mound and sending him back to shortstop.
“It was just time to make a change. I was trying to not have the tying run come to bat,” Chris Bass said.
But that’s what happened as Quinn fired two balls to load the bases with no outs. With some serious nail-biting going on in the Wilson side of the stadium, Quinn brought some relief as he fanned Butcher for the first out.
Then, on a 2-2 pitch, Quinn got West to hit a grounder up the middle that Radford scooped up, touched second and fired to Glover at first to complete the game-ending double play.
From near disaster to game over, Wilson’s fortunes changed just that quickly.
“Real quick!” Chris Bass said. “Defense will do that for you.”
Score by innings:
WP-Joe Glover 3 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO. LP-Jack West 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 SO. S- Simon Quinn 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Greenville: Max Mason 1-2, RBI; Ryker Butcher 1-2, 2B; Justin Grimes 1-3; Davis Bradley 1-3. Wilson: Seth Evans 1-3, HR, 3 RBIs; Ryan Bass 1-2, 3B, 2 R; Carter Adams RBI, R; Joe Glover 1-3.