By Mike Grizzard
Cory Scott lacked just one critical piece on his resume as a Little League baseball coach.
He now has that elusive city championship to savor, but only after his RE/MAX team withstood a determined late challenge by Optimist for a 15-9 win Thursday night.
As lightning flashed high overhead beyond the center field fence, RE/MAX (21-6) wrapped up a sweep of the best-of-three series to give the Tar Heel League its first city championship since 2012. Scott had reached one other city championship series but fell to Kiwanis in three games.
He has won regular-season and Tar Heel tournament titles, as well as district, state and Tournament of State Champion titles as an all-star coach.
Scott’s elation of the coveted city title poured out after shortstop Colin Everette stepped on second base for the final out, sharing hugs and tears with his family, former players and the players and families of this year’s team.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Scott said as he tried to maintain his composure and suppress the flow of tears. “I put so much into it, and these kids give me everything they’ve got. I wanted it so bad for them.
“... It’s why I do this,” he said. “I do this for those kids and those families. I give it everything I’ve got. I was very fortunate to play for Keith LeClair (former ECU coach who died from ALS), and I hope he’s smiling right now.”
Perhaps the time was just right this year with Scott’s 9-year-old son, Landon, on the team.
“I started nine years ago when he was coming,” Scott said. “A lot of kids have meant a whole lot to me and came through this program. Greenville Little League is a big part of my life. It means a whole lot to have my son and these kids that are like my kids. You can ask anyone out here, other teams, I say I love you a lot. And I mean it. These kids mean the world to me.”
Scott’s team also was playing under the RE/MAX name for the first time after a longtime sponsorship for NorthCare, which won a city title in 2010.
“NorthCare was there for us for 14 years; that’s all we knew,” Scott said. “We’re very, very fortunate to have people like RE/MAX to come out and support our program and support our community. At the beginning of the year we were all upset that we weren’t NorthCare anymore, but I told them from day one that we’ll be the first RE/MAX on the cup ever.”
RE/MAX etched its name on the list of champions on Greenville Little Leagues souvenir cups by taking advantage of Optimist’s struggles on the mound and in the field, cruising 12-2 in four innings in Wednesday’s opener then rolling up a 13-1 lead Thursday.
Optimist (16-11), which reached the city championship series a year after finishing 2-21, twice came within a strike of the 10-run-lead being enforced, but Joe May launched a three-run homer in the fourth inning and drilled a three-run double in the fifth to create some late-inning tension. Ultimately, Optimist could not overcome eight errors and 13 walks from three pitchers.
“We’re thankful to God for the opportunity to play baseball here, first of all,” Optimist manager Wayne May said. “We’re grateful the boys came through everything healthy and intact, and congratulations to RE/MAX. They’re a great baseball team, fantastic team. Our hats are off to them. They just outplayed us, but I’m proud of our kids. They played hard and never gave up. There toward the end they started showing what kind of baseball team they are, but too little too late.”
RE/MAX scored five runs before collecting its first hit, cashing on seven walks, a hit batter and two Optimist errors for a run in the first and four in the second. RE/MAX built its lead to 13-1 with a six-run fourth inning aided by five Optimist errors. Colin Everette, who knocked in three runs, double to left-center, and Davis Hathaway added a run-scoring single.
Starting pitcher Rhettec Galaska, celebrating his 13th birthday, allowed three hits and one run through three innings. He was within an out of sealing the victory when Joe May connected for a three-run home in the fourth.
Davis Bradley surrendered two hits and a run before being relieved by Hathaway with two outs in the fifth. After a walk and a hit batter, Joe May drew Optimist within 15-8 with his three-run double. Tyler Sparrow followed with another double.
After an intentional walk to Trey Williford, Hathaway got out of the inning with a grounder to short then breezed through the sixth, allowing only an infield single.
“I wanted to see if Davis could go out and be a 12-year-old and get the final out,” Scott said. “But it’s like we always do, nothing comes easy. It is what it is, and they can’t take it from us now.”
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.