Locals win tourney

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 10, 2003

AHOSKIE – Jerry Harrell honestly didn’t know what to expect from a team he hastily pieced together in order to participate in a 15-and-under wooden bat baseball tournament on the first weekend of November.

For starters, the young men he assembled were, like all young baseball players, accustomed to swinging an aluminum bat. Then came the fact that his club had to face the likes of players hailing from the more baseball-traditional towns of Rocky Mount, Williamston, Greenville and New Bern.

What he didn’t measure in his young troops was the size of their collective hearts and it was that &uot;pulse&uot; in which the Tri-County All-Stars used to stun their opposition en route to capturing the championship of the Wood Bat Classic, held Nov. 1-2 in Williamston.

Tri-County – a group assembled from Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties – finished with a spotless 3-0 record en route to earning the towering piece of first-place hardware.

&uot;They exceeded all my expectations,&uot; said Harrell, a local businessman who is an avid supporter of youth baseball. &uot;We got some great pitching, played solid on defense and had some timely hitting. I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from a group of young men, especially knowing that many of them haven’t played together as one team in the past.&uot;

After a thrilling 7-6, extra inning win over New Bern in their first game, Tri-County gained a head of steam, which later proved unstoppable. In their second game, Tri-County used a four-run outburst in the bottom of the second inning to back-up a solid pitching effort from Jay Joines, Dexter Carter and Ben Bright to defeat Rocky Mount, 5-1.

Those two wins set-up a &uot;David vs. Goliath&uot; contest against heavily favored Triple Crown, a talented cast of players from the baseball rich towns of Greenville and Williamston.

Triple Crown proved a worthy foe as they rattled Tri-County for three runs in the top of the first inning. It appeared that Tri-County’s run to glory was running out of steam.

&uot;We didn’t let their big first inning get to us,&uot; noted Harrell. &uot;We didn’t push any panic buttons; we just stuck to what got us this far and that was some great pitching.&uot;

After starting pitcher Jacob Harrell settled down and worked a scoreless second inning, Gavin Mizelle came in for Tri-County and tossed blanks at Triple Crown for the next four innings. However, Tri-County still trailed 3-0 and was down to their final six outs before rallying for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 3-3.

Joines worked a scoreless seventh inning for Tri-County before giving way to Dusty Todd. Todd did surrender a run in the top of the ninth, staking Triple Crown to a 4-3 lead, but this game was far from over.

With Joseph Harrell on second to leadoff the bottom of the ninth, Todd tied the game one-out later when he dusted the rightfield line with an RBI double. One out later, Bright followed Todd’s example as he placed a pitch in the exact same spot – belting what proved to be the game-winning, two-out RBI double.

&uot;What a fantastic finish,&uot; stressed coach Harrell. &uot;These kids kept battling and battling. They just refused to give up.&uot;

Other members of the championship team were John Morris, Heath Britt, Jonathan Dail and Jeremy Courtright. T.J. Joines assisted Harrell with the coaching duties.