RE/MAX rolls in Game One of city championship

By Mike Grizzard

Even after a dominant performance to open Greenville Little Leagues’ city championship series Wednesday night, no one in a RE/MAX uniform is ready to celebrate.

The Tar Heel League tournament champions are in prime position, however, after getting an early jolt from consecutive homers by Davis Hathaway and Rhettec Galaska then riding the two-hit pitching of Ethan Medhus to a 12-2 win in four innings over North State tournament champion Optimist at Stallings Stadium at Elm Street Park.

RE/MAX (20-6) aims to close out the best-of-three-series on Thursday at 7 p.m., but that’s been a challenge for first-game winners recently. BB&T, NorthCare and E.C. Auto each won the three previous city championship openers and ultimately lost in three games.

Scott managed the NorthCare team that fell to Kiwanis in 2016. RE/MAX took over sponsorship of the team this year.

“We’ve been here,” Scott said. “We were here two years ago against Kiwanis. We won 10 to nothing, and we lost on a walk-off in the second game, and we got whooped the third game. I just told the boys, I said, ‘The 11s and 12s, they were here. Don’t forget. This ain’t over.’”

That’s the same message Wayne May had for his Optimist team, which is looking to extend North State’s reign in the city championship to six straight years -- Jarman Auto claimed the last title for Tar Heel in 2012. Optimist (16-10) is in the finals after finishing 2-20 last year and sharing fourth in the regular season this year.

“I just told them tomorrow’s a new day,” May said. “We just have to flush this and move on. It wasn’t our night. … We’ve got pitching intact for tomorrow. We’re still counting on three games. We’re going to try our best to make it three games and hopefully play better baseball. They’re better than what they showed.”

Optimist's struggles came on the mound and in the field. Starting left-hander Trey Williford exited in the third inning after piling up 85 pitches. He allowed eight hits, walked six and hit two batters.

Five errors included a pair of catcher’s interference calls that contributed to a four-run third inning.

“Baseball’s a very peculiar game,” May said. “What happens one day may be totally opposite the next. It all starts out there on that bump. Hopefully we’ll do a better job throwing strikes tomorrow. If we do we should be more competitive.”

Optimist grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first with the aid of a hit batter and an intentional walk to Tyler Sparrow, but RE/MAX answered with a bang, getting a two-run, opposite-field homer by Hathaway followed by a mammoth shot to left by Galaska that landed in the Challenger Field.

“That’s the second time we’ve done that,” said Hathaway, who hit his fifth homer of the year. “We did it against Jarman.”

RE/MAX entered the game with just six homers on the year compared to 17 for Optimist. The home run for Galaska was his second of the season.

“DH and Rhettec have had it all year,” Scott said. “We've just been telling them to keep swinging. Don’t swing for the fences, but keep swinging.”

Hathaway was issued an intentional walk in a four-run second inning that featured five hits and ran Williford’s pitch count to 59. The first five batters in the inning reached base, highlighted by Davis Bradley’s RBI double to left-center. Max Mason added a run-scoring single.

That was more than enough run support for Medhus, an 11-year-old right-hander who walked two and struck out six. Five of those strikeouts came in succession, including fanning the side on nine pitches in the second inning. He had a string of 13 consecutive strikes that extended from the final out of the first inning to the first out of the third inning.

“Game One in the city championship, I can’t be more proud of him,” Scott said. “I’ve told a lot of people all year long that he’s a safety pin. He’s someone that I can count on at any position, any time, any place. He’s got a heart of gold. He means the world to this team, and he means the world to me.”

Hathaway was impressed with his teammate’s effort.

“He did great,” Hathaway said. “Me and Cory had a talk about if I wanted to start, and I said let’s see how far Ethan can go. He pitched great. I’m glad how it turned out.”

But the job is not completely finished.

“I was really proud of the focus we came out with,” Scott said. “For us to give up two runs in the top and come back and get three … I’m really, really proud of the focus that the boys have. We’ve got one left.”

Mike Grizzard of Winterville has more than 30 years of experience as a writer for both print and digital publications in the areas of sports, business, news, faith and personal profiles. Contact Mike at 252-916-4206.