Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — In the end, the potent bats swung by the Wilson City Little League Ages 11-12 All-Stars that carried them to the North Carolina championship didn’t show up at the Little League Baseball Southeast Regional.
Wilson, which lost 7-1 to Virginia champion Loudon South in the first round Friday, was eliminated Saturday morning with a 5-3 loss to Tennessee champion Goodlettsville. Wilson, which managed only a pair of Carter Adams singles in Friday’s loss, doubled its hits total Saturday but it wasn’t nearly enough for a team that had outscored its opposition 50-8 in four games in the N.C. Little League tournament a couple of weeks earlier.
“Well, the pitching was a lot better and we were definitely a little nervous,” Adams said.
Wilson head coach Chris Bass backed up that notion.
“Bigger stage, more nerves, more pressure, better teams — a little bit of everything,” Bass said, citing the reasons for the offensive drop-off. “In the first game, the pitcher was really good. (Saturday), the pitcher was good but we had bad at-bats. We were pressing too hard, trying too hard. Instead of just going up there and hitting, they were worrying about hitting, I think.”
Tennessee starting pitcher Watson Storey was sharp in his four innings of work, giving up just one hit — a double by Wilson lead-off batter Connor Radford — while walking none and striking out eight. By the time Storey’s replacement, Ty Frey, took the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning, Tennessee had built a 4-0 lead against Wilson starter Seth Evans and reliever Joe Glover.
The first run came in the third when Cade Philpot singled with two out and Storey doubled him home. Wilson’s defense created problems as an error, a passed ball and two wild pitches, combined with two walks and two singles contributed to three more Goodlettsville runs in the fourth.
Wilson threatened in the fifth inning when Lennon Warren and Shea Whitley each singled to start the inning before Joel Breiholz drew a base on balls to load the bags. Simon Quinn’s groundout scored Warren but that was it for Wilson.
Tennessee pushed across another unearned run in the top of the sixth, courtesy of an error, a single and a pair of passed balls.
Wilson’s last hurrah came on Glover’s two-run home run with one out in the bottom of the sixth. It was the fifth homer of the postseason for Glover.
Tennessee was eliminated 9-0 by Florida on Sunday while Virginia faces Georgia in a battle of unbeatens in Monday’s second semifinals game.
For his money, Bass thinks that Virginia is the team to beat but, aside from uncharacteristic mental mistakes and physical errors, didn’t think Wilson was overmatched in its two losses.
“I don’t think we were that far behind the teams we lost to. I think they were probably the two best teams there,” he said.
While Wilson City Little League is still seeking its first victory at the regional level, the experience made up for the disappointment of losing.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Bass, who was assisted by Rob Ferrell and Chris Radford. “My expectations weren’t that high to come down here and win it. There’s eight good teams and only one leaves here.”
Bass, who was the head coach of the WCLL team that made it to Warner Robins, said that it was likely his last game as a Little League head coach since his youngest son, Ryan, along with all the other players on the team, will age out of Little League.
“I’ll be around the game but I don’t know what I’ll be doing,” Chris Bass said.
The 13 players who won the state title — Adams, Bass, Evans, Radford, Glover, Quinn, Warren, Whitley, Evan Ferrell, Cole Davis, DeAndre Sellers, Tyson Foster and Nathan Matthews — along with Breiholz, an injury replacement for Davis in Georgia, will long treasure the memories of playing on that type of stage.
“The kids still had a good time and getting to experience going to the Southeast Regional was pretty cool,” Bass said. “I told the kids, ‘You won’t realize it now, but later on, years down the road, you’ll look back and understand how big what you did was. It might be when you’re teaching your kids how to play or coaching Little League, but you’ll think a lot of more of it later on.’”
For Adams, the summer came down to a simple memory.
“It was fun,” he said. “Just playing with your friends at the field.”
Score by innings:
Tennessee 001 301 — 5
North Carolina 000 012 — 3
WP-Watson Storey 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO. LP-Seth Evans 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Tennessee: Watson Storey 2-4, 2B, RBI; Dai Dai Cotton 1-2, RBI, R; Nathan Taylor 1-4, RBI. North Carolina: Joe Glover 1-3, HR, 2 RBIs; Shea Whitley 1-1; Lennon Warren 1-1, R; Connor Radford 1-3, RBI; Simon Quinn 0-2, RBI.