GREENEVILLE — If Paxton Seal wasn’t going to get a hit, he certainly wasn’t going to allow one. Not on his 12th birthday.
The sixth pitcher to take the mound for Morristown, Seal zipped his fastball by six batters and struck out four of them to send Morristown’s Little League baseball All-Stars to the District 4 championship game with a 5-4 win over Greeneville at Optimist Field on Wednesday night.
Seal stranded two Greeneville runners in the fifth inning with his first strikeout, but he issued ball four to Ronan Johnson to begin the sixth.
No worries, Seal fanned the next three batters to end the game and celebrate his birthday in style.
“Paxton is our workhorse, plain and simple,” Morristown coach Stiel Lovin said. “If you’ve watched Morristown Rec League this year, you’ve seen it.”
Now Greeneville has too.
And Morristown was able to keep all of its pitchers eligible for Friday’s District 4 championship game as well. Riley Short and Charlie Dewald threw the first 1 2/3 innings with Dewald striking out three, and Gavin Mitchell fanned three straight before Zachary Henry and Malakhi Isom preceded Seal on the hill. Isom struck out four of the five batters he faced, bringing Morristown’s final K count to 14.
But the run support didn’t come until the second inning after Morristown had fallen behind 4-0.
Two batters after Isaac Greene led off the home half of the second with a ground-ball single, Chasen Lovin singled him home.
Julian Sexton then cut the deficit to 4-2 as he smashed an RBI triple to deep right-center, and Short led off the third with a base hit before scoring two batters later when Isom knocked a double to left.
It was three batters later that Lovin, hitless the previous night, lined a two-out single to right-center which sent home Isom and Seal for a sudden 5-4 lead after three innings.
On this night, Lovin delivered in every plate appearance – batting 2-for-2 with three RBIs.
“Chasen is one of those kids when his back is against the wall, he gets it done and proves his point,” Coach Lovin said. “He was ready to come out and prove a point today.”
Short batted 3-for-3 with Cadence Beaver and Cade Henson each hitting a line-drive single to match Isom, Sexton and Greene with one hit as Morristown collected 10 in the game.
Brendan Lisenby relieved starting pitcher Bryce Guinn after 1 1/3 innings and threw the rest of the way, giving up four runs on seven hits while striking out four in taking the loss.
However, Morristown had trouble finding the strike zone in the early going as six Greeneville players drew walks with another being hit by a pitch in the opening stanza.
Zachary Mason and Colby Brooks took ball four and Greene wore a pitch with the bags full to force home one run apiece in the first inning.
The lead grew to 4-0 in the second inning when Gavin Crum led off with a base hit and scored on Guinn’s RBI double to left-center.
Greeneville managed just one more hit in the last 4 2/3 innings courtesy of Guinn, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Crum, 1-for-3, accounted for Greeneville’s only other hit in the game.
But it was Morristown’s inability to throw strikes early which concerned Coach Lovin the most.
“We have to mentally within ourselves figure out what we’ve got to do and figure out why we’re here. We just have to get mentally ready before the game,” Lovin said. “As bad as it’s looked, we’ve accomplished our goal so far and we’re going to the district championship. We just have to clear our heads and figure out what we’ve got to do.”
Morristown takes on tonight’s winner of the loser’s bracket final between Greeneville and Rogersville for the District 4 championship Friday night, with first pitch set for 7 p.m. at Optimist Field.