SA rolls into quarterfinals
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jacob Carr wasn't worried when he come in to relieve in the second inning and St. Albans already down 2-0 in Wednesday's final round of pool play in the Little League state tournament.
Carr's confidence helped him work out of a bases-loaded jam and hold down the fort until the bats arrived as SA took a 9-4 come-from-behind victory over South Charleston. A crowd of about 200 ringed the outfield fence at Little Creek Park.
SA, which finished 3-0 in pool play, advanced to today's single-elimination quarterfinals. The rest of the quarterfinal field was still up in the air as Wednesday's pool play continued. SC was bounced from the tournament with a 1-2 mark in pool play and had to beat SA by four runs or more to advance.
"I was confident, really,'' said Carr, who surrendered just one earned run on one hit in 31/3 innings with eight strikeouts and also belted a two-run homer. "I was on my game. The curveball [was working really well].''
SC took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Aiden Johnson's two-run home run and had runners on second and third with two outs. After Carr walked SC's Tyler Atkinson, he bore down and fanned Johnson on a 1-2 count to end the threat.
Then SA's offense arrived in the top of the third as it plated six runs and sent 10 batters to the plate in taking a 6-2 advantage, one in which it would never relinquish. SA's Nick Loftis, the starting pitcher, knotted the game at 2-all after coaxing a bases-loaded walk, and SA took the lead for good on Chandler Guidry's two-run single to make it 4-2. SA pinch hitter Zane Wikle followed with a two-run single to complete the scoring in the frame.
After SC's offensive outburst in the first two innings, Carr whiffed seven straight spanning the last out of the second through the fourth inning and set down SC in order in the third, fourth and fifth. His only mistake was SC's Paul Boddy's solo round-tripper to lead off the sixth.
Carr was relieved after Boddy's shot over the right-field bleachers and SC's Anthony Miller worked a bases-loaded walk to pull within 9-4, but Guidry came on and induced SC's Corey Lanier to ground into a force out at home and got Atkinson on an infield pop out to end the game.
"The kids didn't quit,'' said SC manager Gerald Burgy. "They hung in there because they could have folded up. They played to the last out. [Carr's] a good Little League pitcher. He has good control and knows where to put his curveball.''
Travis Atkins went 2 for 4 and drove in a run for SA while Ridge Lester knocked in a run.
"These kids have worked their butts off,'' said SA manager Danny Kessler. "They've played hard and practiced hard. I'm just so tickled to death for them. They've played lights out.
"We've had a few miscues along the way, but we've overcome them. They're capable of doing all kinds of good stuff. They're a great bunch.''
SA has been living on the edge during the postseason, falling to SC 3-2 in district play then rallying past Mountain State for an 8-3 win after falling behind 3-2 in an elimination matchup.
"It was a hard road,'' Carr said. "We weren't hitting until our bats came alive today. It was a tough game at the end. I thought we were going to give it up for a minute until [Guidry got the popout] and got us a win. We can make some noise. I'm not going to say we're going to win it, but we have a good chance.''
Kessler won't get to manage SA if it makes it past today's quarterfinals since he will be out of town as the best man in his son's wedding. SA coaches Brock Chandler and Tom Carr will lead the team.
"The only reason I took this team is this is probably my last year and these kids have done a heck of a job,'' said the SA manager. "We've had great coaches on this team. I'm very proud of them. They've worked very hard.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.