Sports

Big Fourth Inning Leads Tar Heel Past Virginia

Greenville Tar Heel’s defense answered an early wakeup call on Sunday. The bats took a bit longer to shake out of a slumber, but once they did, they created quite a rumble.

Tar Heel erupted for 10 hits and 11 runs in the fourth inning to defeat Virginia state champion Vienna Little League 12-3 on the second day of the ages 8-10 Tournament of State Champions at Elm Street Park’s Stallings Stadium. Before the big fourth, Tar Heel had a total of eight hits and four runs in the previous eight innings.

A seven-run fourth inning doomed Tar Heel, the North Carolina state champion, in a 13-3 loss Saturday to Georgia state champion Northern Little League of Columbus. Tar Heel completes pool play Monday at 3:30 p.m. against Alabama state champion Ladonia Little League of Phenix City.

Tar Heel’s Christian LoPresti slides in safely ahead of the tag attempt by Virginia third baseman Tyler Melvin.

“I’m proud of the boys to come back after getting 10-run-ruled,” Tar Heel manager Trey Haddock said. “We came out a little flat and just needed that one big hit, that one big hit to get us going.”

Tar Heel had its chances in the first three innings under a sweltering morning sun, stranding two runners in the first and leaving the bases loaded in the second and third innings – scoring just once on a leadoff homer by Davis Bradley in the third.

The hits and runs came in waves in the fourth. By the time the inning ended, Tar Heel had sent 14 batters to the plate and built a nine-run lead.

Davis Bradley gets a hug from teammate Derrion Geddis after his leadoff homer in the third inning.

“This team always seems to have one big inning,” Haddock said. “We did it in the district, and we did it again in the state.”

Tar Heel’s defense stymied a couple of potential big innings for Virginia early. Virginia, a 4-1 win over Tennessee on Saturday, threatened in the first after an infield single by Zach Hansen and a single by Niko Papathanasiou. Shortstop Justin Grimes quickly extinguished the chance, leaping to snare line drive by Kyle Tyrrell and dashing to second to complete a double play.

Second baseman Parker Watson gloved another sharp liner in the second, and Jack West’s sliding catch in right helped limit Virginia to one run in the fourth when it left the bases loaded. Virginia stranded 10 runners overall.

Tar Heel’s Jack West slides in with a fourth-inning run as the ball gets past Virginia catcher Giacomo Jreige.

Virginia took a 2-0 lead in the third on an RBI single by Papathanasiou and a sacrifice fly by Tyrrell. Hansen’s run-scoring single in the top of the fourth following Bradley’s homer made it 3-1.

The first six batters reached base in Tar Heel’s decisive bottom of the fourth. Grimes, who was 3-for-4, doubled in front of a diving attempt by right fielder Sean Wilson. Watson followed with another double, ending the day for Virginia starter Mark DePaul.

Bradley, who also was 3-for-4, singled and advanced on an outfield error, and James Sawyer put Tar Heel in front 4-3 with a two-run single. West followed with a walk and stole second, then an intentional walk to Derrion Geddis loaded the bases.

After Sawyer was cut down at the plate attempting to score on a pitch in the dirt, Ryker Butcher’s sacrifice bunt made it 5-1. Pinch-hitter Andrew Knight-Hyatt followed with an infield hit, and Ethan Medhus walked to load the bases again.

Tar Heel third baseman Derrion Geddis keeps his eye on the bouncing ball, which he fielded and threw to second for a force out in the third inning.

Grimes delivered his second hit of the inning, a single that got past the center fielder. Watson and Bradley also singled, and Sawyer doubled.

West then sent a drive to the fence in right that Sean Wilson kept in the park. One run scored, but West was thrown out at third.

Bradley picked up the win after coming on in relief in the third inning. Joyner Haddock and Watson worked the final two scoreless innings.

West Virginia 7, Florida 3

Cole Ferguson doubled and tripled and Riley Bowles was 2-for-3 to lead West Virginia state champion Barboursville to a 7-3 win over Florida state champion San Carlos Little League of Fort Myers.

West Virginia and Florida are each 1-1 in pool play. West Virginia faces Tennessee at 10 a.m. on Monday, and Florida takes on Virginia at 6:15 p.m.

Cade Johnson and Corey Otzenberger combined to limit a Florida team that scored 15 runs in its opener. Johnson worked 4.1 innings, giving up five hits and three runs. He struck out five and walked one. Otzenberger needed just 11 pitches to record five outs, He allowed three hits.

Nicholas Raber and Angel Moreno combined to strike out nine for Florida.

Florida took a 2-0 lead in the second, but West Virginia pushed across three runs in the bottom of the inning on a double by Bowles and four singles. A triple by Ferguson and a double by Otzenberger made it 4-2 in the third.

After Florida got within 4-3, Bowles delivered a two-run single and Griffin Dempsey added a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

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