In a battle of former 8-10 year old Tournament of State Champion winners the hometown team, Tar Heel Little League, cruised to victory over Loudoun-South American Little League of South Riding, Va, 12-2 Wednesday afternoon at Elm Street Park.
It was the first time Tar Heel has won the tournament since 2017. They are the fourth team from North Carolina to win the tournament (Pilot Mountain, '15; Tar Heel, '17; Winston Salem, '18 and Tar Heel, '19). With the win North Carolina is now tied with Florida for most winners from a state in the tournament.
"I've had a lot of great things happen to me through the game of baseball," Tar Heel head coach Corey Scott said. "I'm just so proud that this game can bring the same to these kids and these families."
Rooke Knittle (4-for-4, 3 R, 2B, 3 RBI) capped off a fantastic tournament, in which he went 10-for-12, good for an .833 batting average, placing him as one of the tournaments top all-time batters. Luke Tyndall added two runs to the scoreboard, while Parker Simo, Tyce Thompson, Chase Davis, Webb Evans, Kaysn Chase and Matthew Tyndall all added one run.
An emotional Scott shared his pride in his teams ability to overcome adversity throughout the season.
"We start this league in February," Scott said. "We go through the whole season and get together in the summer and ask these kids to do things they are not normally doing. Most of them play shortstop or second and they're playing left or right field. They all took to their roles. I'm just super proud of them all. It brings so much joy to me just to have them and have them experience all the joy this game can bring to them."
It was Virginia who got on the board first, as JW Valentini came around to score in the top of the first inning, but Tar Heel never wavered, as they responded with eight runs including two from Knittle. Even with a seven-run lead Scott said he never felt as if victory was guaranteed early against Loudoun-South American, which entered the day with a 4-0 tournament record. Tar Heel entered with a 3-1 record.
Your 2019 Tournament of State Champions winners Tar Heel Little League! pic.twitter.com/3ar5baaH6z— Jake Keator-Daily Reflector Sports (@JakeKeatorDR) July 24, 2019
"I never thought to let up," Scott said. "Virginia is a well coached team. They didn't lose all week, and they beat us once in the first game. We wanted to come out and set the tone. When they scored the first run in the first inning we came into the dugout and told everyone to put a helmet on and lets bat around. We wanted to set the tone and the kids really responded to what we wanted to do, and we held onto the lead."
As players received their awards postgame, including a medal and a baseball, they all gave hugs and high-fives to their coaches. As each player approached, Scott leaned in, gave a hug and whispered three short, but powerful words.
"I told them I loved them,' Scott said. "I told them I loved them, because I truly do. I truly love coaching kids and I truly love Greenville Little Leagues. It has brought a lot to my life in a time when things weren't so good. Greenville Little Leagues and this game brings things to me that I just can't express."
The Tournament of State Champions title brings an end of the season for the 8-10 year olds, as there is no Little League World Series for the age group.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.