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North State headed to Williamsport

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Former Greenville Little Leagues players Jake Lysaght, right, Trent Allen, second from right, and others cheer on North State on Wednesday at Tie Breakers Sports Bar. Wednesday, Aug. 9.

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The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Greenville’s North State All-Stars have had a remarkable summer run, and it will continue in Williamsport, Pa.

The youngsters from Greenville Little Leagues clinched that unique distinction Wednesday afternoon on national television when they beat Peachtree City, Ga., 8-6 in the Southeast Regional championship game on ESPN.

This is the first North Carolina team to make the World Series field since 2004 and the second ever from Greenville, joining the Tar Heel squad that made the Little League World Series semifinals in 1998.

Thomas Barrett had the big hit when it was tied in the bottom of the fourth inning and he ripped a grounder through the right side to score two runs. A third run scored on an error during the play, making it 8-5 North State.

The final ball was a chopper hit to Barrett in the top of the sixth, and he grabbed it and stepped on first base, setting off a celebration of elated players and coaches.

“That was good,” coach Brian Fields said immediately after he was doused with a Gatorade bath by his players. “We did it, baby.”

Bryce Jackson hit a three-run home run, and Matthew Matthijs came in as a relief pitcher when it was 3-0 Georgia in the first inning and he pitched the rest of the way with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

The team has picked up followers as its win total has increased this summer, especially this week as it played on ESPN twice. Family members, teachers, neighbors and others took to social media to send encouragement and congratulations as it progressed at the Southeast Regional tournament in Warner Robins, Ga.

North State went 4-0 at the regional, outscoring its opponents by a combined 26-10 count.

“Congratulations to Greenville North State on winning the SE Regional! Keep representing our city well at the LLWS in Williamsport, Pa.,” the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department account posted on Twitter minutes after the win, which was soon retweeted by Pitt County Schools Superintendent Ethan Lenker.

East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin tweeted: “Congrats to the hometown boys & coaches from Greenville heading to Williamsport! Great come from behind win!”

Next week will bring these kids even more exposure, as the event in Williamsport, Pa., is often considered the grandest stage in all of youth sports and is accompanied by more coverage from ESPN’s networks.

North State became the first U.S. team to clinch a spot this year by winning a back-and-forth contest, which saw Georgia grab early momentum thanks to a leadoff double, RBI triple and two-run home run in the top of the first inning. North State got a big boost in the bottom of the second when Jackson launched a three-run home run to center field as part of a five-run rally for a 5-3 edge.

Like on Monday night on ESPN, the players got to do personal introductions before the start of the game. They walked out of the dugout, said their name and their favorite baseball player.

Announcer and former Major League Baseball player Chris Singleton described the trip to Williamsport as an “opportunity of a lifetime” when it was 5-5 in the fourth inning.

North State pulled away from there and has earned the opportunity that Singleton referenced.

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