GREENEVILLE — Fourth in the state, “pretty doggone good” according to Lance Wild.
While Wild and the Morristown All-Stars weren’t ready for their journey to end, the coach ensured his players had every reason to be proud.
“They have no reason whatsoever to hang their heads,” Wild said. “I told them, ‘boys, there’s probably 600-700 teams across the state of Tennessee who would like to be where you’re at today.”
Johnson City American jumped ahead early and scored seven unearned runs in the sixth inning to pull away in a 14-4 victory, eliminating Morristown from the Tennessee 9-10 Little League Baseball State Tournament and advancing to the loser’s bracket final.
Logan Long and Urijah Marsingill led off the bottom of the fifth with two straight infield singles, and the former scored when Ethan Maples grounded out to first. Hayden Wild then singled home Marsingill with a one-out line drive to right to pull Morristown within 7-4.
But two costly errors kept Johnson City American alive in the seventh inning, the second of which allowed Caleb Wilcox to score from third. Maddox Francis then lined a base hit to left where a two-bag fielding error cleared the loaded bases for a sudden 11-4 cushion, and Robert Humphrey’s ensuing RBI triple to right made it 12-4.
Gus Adams and Brady Lamb singled home Johnson City American’s final two runs, and Long’s two-out line drive in the home half wasn’t enough for Morristown.
Long, Marsingill and Wild led Morristown with two hits apiece while Sutton Smith and Bryson Whaley both added one to round out Morristown’s total of eight hits.
“I told them everything doesn’t always go our way, but winners keep their heads up and work harder for it next time they get the opportunity,” Coach Wild said. “I hope they had a good experience and learned stuff from it. This is what it’s about.”
Singles by Wild and Whaley were Morristown’s only hits through two innings, but Marsingill and Smith awakened Morristown with consecutive one-out base hits in the third. Smith’s line drive single also resulted in Marsingill crossing how plate thanks to a throwing error, and Smith then scored on a double steal as Maples took second to cut Johnson City American’s lead to 6-2.
Hudson Clement and Humphrey singled home all three Johnson City American’s runs in the first inning.
Cole Stevenson drew a bases-loaded walk and Trent Thomas scored during a fielder’s choice in the second inning, and Benjamin Hull lined an RBI single to center for a 6-0 lead in the top of the third.
Max Brian led off the fourth by crushing a triple to deep center before scoring on Stevenson’s groundout to get a run back and make the score 7-2.
Humphrey, who hit 3-for-4 with three RBIs to help his cause, picked up the win for Johnson City American, pitching four innings and giving up six hits while striking out three before Stevenson finished the job and struck out two including the last batter.
Gus Adams hit 2-for-2 while Benjamin Hull, Graham Estep, Brian, Lamb, Francis and Clement each recorded one hit for the winners.
Whaley pitched two full innings for Morristown before Noah Smith took the mound in relief and struck out three over the final four frames.
“They’re a great group of kids. All the parents are supportive, and they’re always up for whatever we want to do whether it’s a practice at 9 in the morning or 9 at night, last minute stuff, I want them to know how much I appreciate knowing them and getting the opportunity to work with them,” Lance Wild said. “We worked the kids hard and I told them how much I look forward to watching them grow, and hopefully I’ll have the chance to coach them again.”