Wayne 14Us emerge District 4 champs
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 16, 2006 2:12 AM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- Greg Neal walked over the scorer's tent, removed his sunglasses to wipe his brow and confidently reported his fifth-inning substitutions to the official scorekeeper.
Certain of his decision, Neal still had some doubts. Would the reserves produce in clutch situations and help Wayne County's 14U all-star team avoid a decisive third game against Johnston County?
The trio of reserves factored into a three-run, sixth-inning rally as Wayne County turned back Johnston County 9-6 on the Spring Creek High School diamond Friday evening. With the victory, Wayne County swept the best-of-three series 2-0 and emerged the Eastern N.C. District 4 Babe Ruth champion.
Neal beamed with pride as he watched his players accept their individual trophies.
"It was back and forth the whole game," Neal said. "A couple of innings we gave them five outs (on errors) while getting just three outs ourselves. It's easy to get down when that happens.
"Our guys never hung their heads; stayed right in it. They deserved to win."
Wayne County built two-run leads on three occasions, but couldn't keep its advantage. Five errors combined with four walks led to six runs (five unearned) as Johnston County rallied for a tie each time.
Deadlocked at 6-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Neal anxiously awaited the result of his lineup change. All three reserves responded, much to Neal's satisfaction.
Brothers Will and Zach Grantham each drew a walk against Johnston County reliever Ryne Mitchell. Trevor Cox, sandwiched between the siblings in the No. 9 spot, executed a perfect bunt down the first-base line to keep Will alive on the basepath.
Will eventually scored on a passed ball. Zach, along with Matt Neal, scampered home on Anderson Barnes' two-RBI single to right center field. Barnes concluded the game 2-for-3 with four RBI, and finished with six RBI in two tournament outings.
"Trevor, you have to commend him," coach Neal said. "We get down toward the end of the game needing a run and he lays down the bunt; we're able to score.
"Anderson gets a clutch hit and gives us a little cushion to work with."
Johnston County failed on its fourth comeback attempt.
Randy Deaver drew a lead-off walk against Wayne County reliever Will Beasley and moved to second on Cameron Harrison's one-out single. Beasley induced a fielder's choice that forced Deaver out at third, and Jermey Narron grounded out to Barnes at first to end the game.
"We knew they weren't going to go down without a fight," Neal said.
Beasley provided two innings of three-hit, one-strikeout relief for right-handed starter Michael Fields. Fields yielded four runs (one earned) on three hits and fanned three JC batters in a four-inning stint.
Tyler Thomas, Beasley and Steven Bostic each contributed two hits. Starting right fielder Zach Beachem batted 1-for-2.
Johnston County used five pitchers in the 2-hour, 28-minute contest. Hunner Holloman and Mitchell (three RBI) each banged out two hits to lead the offense.
Wayne County returns to action next Thursday in the Eastern N.C. Babe Ruth State tournament at Guy Smith Stadium in Greenville. Coach Neal's squad opposes the District 5 champion at 1:30 p.m.
Neal contends his team hasn't reached its potential.
"We've only had a week and we practiced hard when we finally got the team together," Neal said. "Trying to put a team together and gel them in a week is hard to do. This (win) bides us a little time to get ready for the state.
"We're looking forward to it."
Eastern N.C. Babe Ruth
District 4 Baseball
(at Spring Creek HS)
Johnston County 002 202 0 -- 6 6 3
Wayne County 202 023 x -- 9 9 5
Leading hitters -- Johnston County -- Hunner Holloman 2-4, 3B, 3 RBI; Ryne Mitchell 2-4, 3 RBI. Wayne County -- Tyler Thomas 2-3; Will Beasley 2-3; Anderson Barnes 2-3, 4 RBI; Steven Bostic 2-4, RBI.
DP -- Wayne County 1. LOB -- Johnston County 9, Wayne County 5. SH -- Neal, Cox, Narron. SF -- Barnes. SB -- Holloman, Hayes, Narron, Thomas, Beasley, Barnes 2, Bostic. CS -- Beachem.
IP H R ER BB SO
Myers 2 1/3 5 4 2 0 0
Narron 1 2/3 2 2 0 1 1
Hayes 1 0 0 0 0 1
Mitchell (L, 0-1) 1/3 0 3 3 0
Harrison 2/3 2 0 0 0 1
Fields 4 3 4 1 3 3
Beasley (W, 1-0) 3 3 2 0 1 1
WP -- Beasley 2, Mitchell 2. PB -- Narron. HBP -- Beasley (by Narron).
T -- 2:28.
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