SMITHFIELD — The Tar Heel League District V 10-and-under baseball tournament was a Southern Johnston Baseball Association showcase.
The SJBA’s two teams met in the finals of the Midget League division, with the South squad taking a 14-6 victory over the North in the championship game at Smithfield Community Park.
The South squad entered the bottom of the second inning clinging to a 3-2 lead, but sent 14 batters to the plate in the inning to score eight runs and take charge. The South team had six hits in the big inning, getting contributions from up and down the lineup.
“They really brought their bats that inning,” South coach Jason Parker said. “They hit the ball good. Don’t get me wrong, they have their games (when they don’t hit) but they had it going in that inning.
“The defense is always solid. When they bring their bats and their defense, they are hard to beat.”
SJBA South had 14 hits in the title game, with A.J. Byrd and Chase Carroll each going 2-for-2. Nine of the 12 hitters in the South lineup had hits in the game.
Carroll pitched four strong innings and Patrick Allen finished up for South.
“I feel like one inning got us,” North coach Junior Pearce said. “(South is) definitely a good ball team, you definitely can’t take anything away from them. We had to play a perfect game to beat them.
“But we’re tickled with second.”
Pearce’s squad was made up almost entirely of 8- and 9-year-olds, with just one 10-year-old on its roster.
“I feel really good about them coming as far they did as young as they are,” Pearce said.
The South squad finished second a year ago, when most of its players were 9.
“We came in there and played Clayton last year and they were an older team and we were a younger team,” Parker said.
“This year, it was our turn. Next year, North will be hard to handle. They are a good little team.”
Parker said eight of his 12 players returned from last year’s runner-up squad.
North defeated Cleveland 10-4 in the loser’s bracket final earlier Sunday to advance to the championship round.
Left-hander Gabe Strickland went the distance on the mound for North, giving up seven hits and striking out seven. He went 2-for-2 in the semifinal and was 5-for-6 in the two games on Sunday. Nate Clifton and Tommy Noles also had two hits each for North in the semifinal.
SJBA South will join the South 12-and-under team in the Tar Heel League state tournament in Williamston beginning July 25.
Parker is looking forward to the challenge: “If the boys show up and play ball like they can, I’m pretty confident.”