08/01/10 — Pirates take title in TN

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Pirates take title in TN

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 1, 2010 1:50 AM

T.J. Smothers had to think he was reliving a scene from the hit movie "Forrest Gump" while thinking about this year's Wayne County Pirates 10-Under baseball team.

"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

Smothers made some additions to a squad that claimed the Babe Ruth Southeast Regional 9-Under title just two summers ago. The players developed a strong team chemistry, adopted the "never say die" attitude and stayed focus from first to last pitch in each game.

When the Pirates sailed into their final port, Kingsport, Tenn., Smothers and his coaching staff -- Jeff Chapin, Jon Peacock and Freddy Williams -- had a good feeling about the group. The staff showed confidence in the pitching corps and realized defense would be the key ingredient to winning the 2010 USSSA World Series 10U championship.

Their prophecy proved truthful.

Wayne County permitted just 23 runs in nine games and posted four shutouts. Motor City (Mich.), Line Drive (Ga.) and the Jacksonville (Fla.) Outlaws tested the Pirates in pool play. In bracket action, Wayne County upended Line Drive again, which set up a pivotal showdown with the Arkansas Bombers.

Will Lanier threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout and Brock Johnson crushed a first-inning, two-run home run. The Pirates pillaged the Bombers, 8-0.

Arkansas worked through the losers' bracket to set up a rematch against Wayne County. Tucker Chapin, who handled catching duties in seven of nine games, cranked out a bases-loaded double that broke open the title contest in the fifth inning. Chapin finished with three hits, while Caleb Matthews and Keontae Kitrell contributed two hits apiece.

The Pirates induced the mercy rule when the Bomber defense uncorked an errant throw toward first base. Smother sent the runner home and the customary, celebratory dogpile grew near the pitcher's mound, while the parents roared their approval from the bleachers.

"I don't know if you ever go into a big tournament thinking you can win the whole thing," said Smothers. "I knew if we got good pitching and played good defense, we'd be right there at the end. (We played) truly outstanding.

"You're happy (to win) as a coach, but the sacrifices that the parents and kids make ... you're extremely happy for them and glad that it all came together."

Lanier and Jonathan Peacock each collected two mound victories, while Johnson and Chance Howard each logged one win. Caleb Matthews led the bullpen with two relief wins, while Nolan Harrell posted a save during the championship run.

Landon Smothers, Kittrell, Matthews, Howard and Johnson each turned in solid plays on defense to protect the Pirates' unblemished record. Clay Matthews, the team's youngest player at 7 years old, served as the team's pinch runner.

Wayne County finished the year 39-9 overall.

"Each game that we won, the concept of winning the whole thing became more of a reality," said coach Smothers. "They were having fun, while my parents were biting their (finger) nails.

"(We) had fun playing the game we all love. Baseball is a pretty simple game if you keep it that way, and they kept it that way."

And returned home with a memorable treasure -- a World Series crown.