North Carolina representative Tar Heel Little League punched its ticket to the 8-10 year old Tournament of State Champions final Tuesday morning at Elm Street Park, defeating Tennessee representative Goodettsville, 12-2, in five innings.
Tar Heel led wire to wire before enacting the 10-run mercy rule. Rooke Knittle had another strong performance at the plate, going 3-for-3, scoring three runs and recording two RBIs on the game.
Head coach Corey Scott praised Knittle, who held a record of 6-for-6 with three walks over the past two days of play.
"Rooke is special," Scott said. "He's on my regular little league team, RE/MAX. Him and my son Landon are best friends. He plays hard every day. He doesn't get nervous, he doesn't get rattled. He's a real leader of our team."
Landon Scott (2-for-3, HR, 2 Rs, 2 RBIs) and Chase Davis (2-for-2, 2B, 2 BBs, 2 Rs) also had multi-run games. Parker Simo, AB Daugherty, Luke Tyndell and Sullivan Cobb also recorded runs.
Simo picked up the win from the mound, tossing 4.1 innings, giving up two hits, one run, two walks and striking out seven batters.
The North Carolina club got on the board early in the first thanks to solid baserunning from Knittle. He then added another run in the second, along with an inside-the-park home run from Scott to push the lead to 3-0. Following a four-run third, the hometown crowd was energized as Tar Heel took a commanding 7-0 lead.
Goodettsville scored its only two runs of the morning in the fifth, as Reese Morrow and Levi Harrison crossed home plate. Tar Heel responded with five more runs in the bottom half of the inning, punctuated by Davis' game-ending run to reach the 10-run rule.
After an emotional 5-4 walkoff win against Tampa Bay (Fla.) Monday, Scott said the feeling from his team was more focused Tuesday morning despite an early start.
"It was different," Scott said. "I'm really proud of this team. They came out ready to play. (We had) 15 hits and no strikeouts, that's huge for any team. When they come out ready to play like that, we're hard to beat."
Due to inclement weather that was expected to arrive Tuesday night, the game was pushed up from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Scott said despite the change in time, he knew his players were ready.
"At 6:30 a.m., they were tired," Scott joked. "They were ready, though, when it came time to play. Eight a.m. comes early, but I told them at the beginning of the game, 'It's early for us and it's early for them too.'"
The North Carolina champs will face Virginia representative Loudoun South American in the championship game today. First pitch is set for 11 a.m..