MORGANTON – Limited to just one hit through five innings, Greenville North State’s bats caught fire in the sixth inning to pound out eight hits, fueling a seven-run rally and an 8-5 victory over East Surry on Sunday in the winners’ bracket finals of the ages 10-12 North Carolina Little League state tournament at Catawba Meadows Park.
North State now waits until Wednesday to see who its opponent will be in the championship. The state champion advances to the Southeast Regionals, scheduled for Aug. 4-9 in Warner Robins, Ga.
North State’s chances of remaining unbeaten in tournament play looked bleak heading into the sixth. East Surry, behind the combined pitching effort of Folger Boaz and Luke Bowman, handcuffed a North State offense averaging 13 runs a game, giving up one hit and one run while striking out 10.
Matthew Keener came on to pitch with a 5-1 lead, and North State pounced.
“They just never gave up,” North State manager Brian Fields said. “That last inning they just kept grinding, and sometimes you can feel the wheels turning.
“We were saying if we could get two or three guys at the bottom of the order to come through it would give us a chance, and we could get Matthew (Matthijs) and Carson (Hardee) up after that. Cameron Greenway came off the bench in the sixth inning and came up with a huge double Those guys off the bench were huge for us. … It took 13 of us to win today. Everybody did something.”
Cameron Greenway came off the bench to contribute two hits in a seven-run sixth inning.
Keener got a grounder for the first out of the sixth inning but did not retire another batter before being relieved by Daniel Creech. Greenway, who had been used only as a pinch-runner but had two hits in the sixth, started the rally with a double, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
A walk to Will Casey and a single by Bryce Jackson ended Keener’s stint on the mound. The first five batters to face Creech reached. Cash Daniels-Moye, Matthijs and Hardee laced consecutive singles to pull North State even at 5-5.
After a walk to Thomas Barrett, Chase Anderson’s infield single vaulted North State in front 6-5. With two outs, Greenway and Casey singled to extend the lead to 8-5.
Cash Daniels-Moye singled in North State’s sixth-inning rally.
Hardee came on to pitch the bottom of the sixth and struck out the side. North State pitchers fanned 15 overall – Anderson and Matthijs struck out six each.
The two teams combined for 25 strikeouts.
East Surry scored a pair of runs off Anderson after a long rain delay following the top of the first inning. Bowman drew a leadoff walk, and Boaz singled with one out. After a passed ball, one run scored on the throw to first after a dropped third strike. The other scored on a wild-pitch third strike.
North State picked up a run in the third on a passed ball after loading the bases on a walk to Matthijs, a single by Hardee and a walk to Barrett.
East Surry extended its lead to 5-1 in the third on one-out walks to Boaz and Bowman and a two-out homer by Brett Clayton off Matthijs.