Greenville North State 11-12 All Stars begin competing for a berth in the Little League World Series today in Warmer Robins, Ga. (Photo contributed by Melissa Elpers)
By Mike Grizzard
A Greenville team launches its bid for a second straight trip to the Little League World Series on Friday at 4 p.m. when the 11- to 12-year-old North State All Stars take on Alabama state champion McCalla at Southeast Park in Warner Robins, Ga.
North State earned a spot in the eight-team regionals for the second straight year by winning District IV and North Carolina state titles.
A year ago, North State became the second team from Greenville to reach the pinnacle of Little League baseball and advanced to the U.S. championship game before falling to Texas.
Greenville Tar Heel became the first Greenville team to advance to the LLWS in 1998 as the South Region champion. Tar Heel made consecutive trips to the Southeast Regional in 2011 and 2012.
The first round of the 2018 regionals began Friday at 10 a.m. with Tennessee champion South Nashville taking on Georgia champion Peachtree City, which North State knocked off in the championship game last year.
West Virginia champion Barboursville faces Virginia champion Loudoun South American at 1 pm. The day’s final game matches South Carolina champion Northwood against Florida champion Lehigh Acres.
North State is in the bracket with South Carolina and Florida and will play at either 1 p.m. (losers’ bracket) or 7 p.m. (winners’ bracket) on Saturday. Games are available on the ESPN+ network.
North State’s biggest challenge to get to Georgia proved to be overcoming rival Tar Heel in the district, but it prevailed behind the explosive bat of lead-off hitter Will D’Alonzo and a deep pitching staff led by Marcus Byrd.
North State opened with a 14-4 win over Newport and slipped past Tar Heel 5-4 before Tar Heel rebounded for a 7-4 win. Byrd and North State clinched the title with a 7-0 victory.
D’Alonzo batted 7-for-13 with four homers, two triples and six RBI in the district tournament. Jackson Bunch added six hits, including three doubles.
North State needed just three wins to advance through the state tournament. After a first-round bye, North State shut out Rutherfordton 5-0 then defeated South Durham 9-2 and 2-1
Jake Allen and Michael Vaughn return from the coaching staff that led North State to last year’s LLWS and are joined by Chris Young. Rounding out the roster are Matthew Conway, Ean Behm, Cole Smith, Tyler Sparrow, Collin West, Charlie Blizzard, Will Bunting, Jayden Myrick, Henry Phelps and James Elpers.
The regional championship is being played at Little League Southeast Park in Warner Robins, Ga. (Photo contributed by Melissa Elpers)
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.