07/16/12 — Wayne County 8Us win state championship

View Archive

Wayne County 8Us win state championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 16, 2012 1:48 PM

LAURINBURG -- The cameras hadn't stop flashing to immortalize Wayne County's district championship when TJ Smothers made a bold prediction -- the Wayne County 8-Under softball team wouldn't stop there and that a state championship was in the future.

He was right.

Alyssa Smothers and Kayley Merritt each delivered game-clinching hits in nail-biting situations, and Wayne County emerged as the 2012 Eastern N.C. Babe Ruth Softball state champion Sunday afternoon.

Wayne County punched its ticket to the 2012 Southeast Regional, which begins Wednesday at the Sara Law Softball Complex in Winterville. The pairings and game times for the multi-team, double-elimination tournament have not been determined.

There is no World Series for the 8U group.

"It was hot, muggy, bad weather ... storms," Wayne County head coach TJ Smothers said. "We had to finish one pool game at eight in the morning and there were no complaints from the girls."

Wayne County finished unbeaten in pool play. The All-Star squad hammered all three opponents -- tournament host Laurinburg (18-2), Camden County (12-3) and New Bern (17-5).

Alyssa Smothers provided a game-changing blow in the top of the fifth inning to give Wayne County a 12-7 advantage over Washington. The teams played a tense sixth inning before Wayne County triumphed 12-11.

Wayne County reached the championship game with a 25-12 pounding of Pitt County.

"The winners' bracket final ... we were never really challenged in that game," coach Smothers said.

Pitt County worked through the consolation bracket and faced Wayne County again. Pitt built a seven-run lead after three innings, only to see Smothers' group shave the deficit to 11-9 after four innings.

Wayne County stormed ahead 15-11 in the fifth inning and Pitt battled to a 15-15 tie during its final at-bat in the sixth. Merritt gave Wayne County the crown with a bases-loaded, RBI knock in the bottom of the sixth.

"We just kept chipping away," said Smothers. "I'm very proud of the effort they gave all week long."

Wayne County batted .643 as a team during the tournament. Alyssa Smothers, Airal Pearce and Merritt hit better than .750. Ellie Jones, Camryn Ryan and Tinsley Moore each hit better than .600.