GREENEVILLE — Malakhi Isom didn’t get to bat until the third inning. Apparently, he was eager to make up for lost time.
Morristown had come up empty through two innings, but Isom helped ensure that didn’t happen again as he led off the third with a double to left field and ignited Morristown’s 12-4 win over Rogersville in the Tennessee Little League Baseball State Tournament at Optimist Field Tuesday.
Isom’s double proved contagious as Julian Sexton then traded places with him by lining an RBI double to center field, tying the score at 1 before Riley Short singled home Sexton to put Morristown ahead for good.
Batting eighth in the lineup, Isom went 3-for-4 and batted in three runs.
“Malakhi is a special kid. There are days when he just shows up and does big things. We needed him today, and we needed him to do a good job behind the dish and he did,” Morristown coach Stiel Lovin said.
He delivered in his next two at-bats as well, knocking a ground-ball single to left in the fourth inning which allowed Bryson Shepard and Paxton Seal to score for a 4-1 lead.
And Isom doubled once more in his third appearance, sending home Zachary Henry for a 9-4 lead in the fifth after Henry had subbed in and roped an RBI single down the left-field line.
Cadence Beaver, another sub, sacrificed herself to right field to score Isom and Short lined an RBI double to right which sent Cade Henson’s runner Charlie Dewald home and made it 11-4.
Henry, who struck out two before Dewald recorded the game’s last out, sent Shepard across home plate one more time with a line-drive base hit in the sixth.
Short led Morristown offensively by going 3-for-4 with four RBIs with Henry going 2-for-2.
Although Morristown won the game by eight runs, it took a while to get going. Too long for comfort according to Lovin.
“It takes a really good baseball team to not play well and still win a game by eight runs. We’re a good baseball team but we just didn’t play well today. We’ve got to execute a little better and throw strikes, hit better, get off to better starts,” Lovin said. “This is a resilient group of kids who aren’t OK with how they played today. They won but they’re not happy with it.”
Parker Travis drew a bases-loaded walk with one out in the first before Chasen Lovin, who came on in relief after Morristown walked Rogersville’s first two batters, retired the next two batters to escape further damage.
Lovin picked up the win after striking out seven batters in 2 1/3 hitless innings, helping keep Rogersville’s early lead at 1-0 through two frames.
Isaac Greene took the mound when Lovin reach 50 pitches and threw until he hit that number himself, striking out four in two innings of work before Henry relieved him.
Isom and Sexton plated when Short lined a two-out double to left-center in the fourth for a 6-1 lead.
Gavin Mitchell, who went 2-for-4, then singled home Short to make it 7-1, but Rogersville wouldn’t break and responded with three runs in the bottom half of the frame. Gage Adkins and Levi Charles combined for three RBIs on consecutive singles as Rogersville closed the gap to 7-4.
Charles, a southpaw, pitched three innings for Rogersville and surrendered just two runs on five hits with three strikeouts. Adkins pitched the 2.1 innings before Travis recorded the last two outs of the sixth.
Cole Wagoner, Lucas Williams, Adkins and Charles accounted for all four of Rogersville’s hits — all of which came in the fourth inning.
Seal, Shepard and Sexton each recorded a hit for Morristown.
“We’re going to come out (today) with a new mindset, new attitude and we’re going to execute and hopefully get another win,” Coach Lovin said.
Morristown takes on tournament host Greeneville at 7 p.m. tonight, with the winner advancing to Friday’s District 4 championship game.