SMITHFIELD — In the championship game of the Coach-Pitch (ages 7-8) division in the Southern Johnston Baseball Association Invitational, the Garner U8 all-stars stuck with the same formula that has seen them rack up the wins over the past calendar year.
With an unwavering emphasis on defense and fundamentals, Garner’s approach yielded a familiar result as they defeated Wendell Blue 8-1 at Smithfield Community Park.
Despite a 14-hit barrage supplied by nine different batters, it was Garner’s play in the field that pointed the way to victory.
“We’ve got a very strong hitting lineup but our calling card has always been our defense,” Garner coach David Ferris said. “We don’t make a lot of errors and then we do the fundamental things we are supposed to do.
“We do a great job at shutting everybody down.”
Garner’s Jaxon Lucas was at the forefront of the defensive display.
Lucas was called upon time and again to come up with key defensive plays and the shortstop didn’t disappoint as he accumulated nine putouts converting all but one opportunity that came his way.
Lucas also drove in three runs on a pair of triples with his first three-bagger getting Garner on the board first in the opening frame.
Trey Pennock, Carter Poole and Jacob Mitchell each delivered RBI base hits add to the early lead.
Dalton Ferris and Pinnock contributed two hits apiece as Lane Herndon, Joshua Johnson, Will Purdum and Bennett Rich accounted for the other Garner hits.
Dean Wall helped Wendell Blue respond as his double to center field allowed Brett Fuller to score in the bottom of the first to draw Wendell to within 5-1.
Back-to-back singles from Caleb Locklear and Cameron Long had Wendell threatening in the fifth but Garner shut the door with a couple good defensive grabs to secure the title.
“They played fantastic through the entire tournament,” Ferris said of his team, which has lost only once in the past year. “This is just a culmination of everything we’ve been working on from the last six months to the last year. They played beyond compare.”