Greenville Tar Heel All Stars take the field during a late-night TOSC game that ended with a win just before midnight.
By Mike Grizzard
Greenville Tar Heel players spent much of another rainy day at Elm Street Park waiting to see if they would get a chance to play and stay alive in ages 9-11 Tournament of State Champions.
One minute before midnight, more than 15 hours after a jammed schedule of six games started, a Jack West fastball sewed up a 6-0 win over Georgia state champion Smyrna and a spot in the elimination round.
Greenville, the North Carolina champions, will not have to wait long for that.
Elimination round play begins at 10 a.m. with Greenville taking on Tennessee champion Goodlettsville, followed by South Carolina facing Georgia at 12:45 p.m. The Greenville-Goodlettsville survivor faces Virginia state champion Loudoun County, the tournament’s only unbeaten, at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be an eventful day,” Greenville manager Brayom Anderson said,
And a short night.
First baseman James “Sawyer” Sawyer, who cranked a three-run homer in the first inning, said he did not know how much sleep he would get but figured it would be “not enough.”
A pair of games washed out on Sunday stacked Monday’s schedule with six games beginning at 8:30 a.m. Greenville was penciled in to face Georgia in the day’s final game at 7:45 p.m., a long wait already after a gut-wrenching 9-8 loss to Virginia on Sunday.
That wait got even longer after two rain delays totaling more than three hours, pushing the final game back to a 10:15 p.m. start.
“I kind of thought the way the field looked, it was going to be canceled, but (Commissioner Brian) Weingartz’s team fixed it up amazing,” Sawyer said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Sawyer wasted no time in giving Greenville a jolt of momentum. After Ryker Butcher reached on a bunt single with one out and Davis Bradley was hit by a pitch, Sawyer deposited a Jordan Miller delivery over the fence in center for a 3-0 lead.
“It was perfect timing just to get the boys pumped up,” Sawyer said. “We needed that.”
A two-base error allowing Parker Watson to reach and a single by Christian LoPresti boosted the lead to 4-0.
The early run support was more than enough cushion for starter Matthew Aldridge and three relievers, who combined to allow just three hits and record Greenville’s eighth shutout in the postseason.
Aldridge worked the first two innings, giving up one hit and two walks while striking out two. Max Mason gave up two hits and struck out two in two innings. Ethan Medhus and West each pitched a scoreless inning.
Greenville enters today with only Aldridge and Bradley unavailable to pitch.
“Our goal was to come in and save our guys as much as we could,” Anderson said. “We’ve done that.”
A splendid defensive performance on a slick and saturated turf contributed to Greenville’s efficiency on the mound. Shortstop Justin Grimes turned in a web gem in the third, diving to snare a ball headed for center field and throwing to first for an out.
Butcher and West each came up with key plays to thwart any hopes of a Georgia rally in the sixth. With two on after a pair of walks, Butcher charged a line drive to center by Kyle Wright and fired to third in time to nab Miller. West then fielded a low roller on third and flipped to Davis at third for another force out.
“These guys are good, they’re just good,” Anderson said. “They don’t let a whole lot rattle them.”
Greenville scored its other two runs in the fifth on a leadoff double by Grimes, a one-out double by Bradley and a two-out single by Watson.
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.