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SKIPPERVILLE, Ala. -- Carroll County certainly hoped for better. The team had played better in reaching the Dixie Pre-Majors World Series, and the Cavaliers expected better things once getting to southern Alabama.
The most important thing that was better, though, was the level of baseball being played.
The first team to represent Carroll County in a Dixie World Series in more than 20 years, Carroll County was eliminated after suffering losses Saturday and Sunday at G.W. Long High School, falling to Collierville, Tenn., 9-1 and then Duplin County, N.C. 11-1.
“I think we were tight on Saturday,” said coach Darrin Matthews of his team’s tournament-opening loss to the team from Memphis. “We didn’t quite know what to expect. It was a pretty big deal and we weren’t as loose as normal, we didn’t have our normal atmosphere in the dugout, so yeah, I thought we were a little nervous, a little awestruck.”
Facing a solid left-hander in Chase Clarke didn’t help matters. Clarke repeatedly got ahead in the count and used an array of pitches to hold the Virginia state champions to six hits and one unearned run.
“The kid that we were facing, that left-hander, was pretty good,” Matthews said. “He had all the facets of the game. He had a good change-up, a decent curveball, and he could hit another gear with his fastball when he had two strikes on you. That played a lot into it. But we didn’t play our game.”
Tennessee jumped out to a four-run lead in its initial turn at bat and never looked back. Three walks, RBI base hits by Zach Wylie and Wes Evers plus a two-run, two-out single by Cody Bell put Virginia in a hole it couldn’t emerge from.
Kyle Beard led off the fourth with a solo home run, one of two homers by Collierville’s No. 9 batter, sparking a three-run uprising.
Carroll County got on the board in the top of the fifth when Shane Webb doubled to drive in Nick Tobler, who had reached second on a fielder’s choice and a throwing error.
Tennessee added two runs in the fifth before Carroll shortstop Jared Cox started a 6-4-3 double play.
Tobler, Jordan Lamb, Webb, Craig Rosen and Blake Bowman each had a hit for the Cavaliers.
Seven different Collierville players had at least one RBI each, including two each by Bell, Beard and Zach Phillips.
Tennessee 9, Virginia 1 Carroll County, Va 000 010 0––1 6 2 Collierville, Tenn. 400 320 x––9 11 2
Underwood, Webb (4), Nelson (6) and Snow. Clarke, Branson (7) and Wylie. WP – Clarke. LP – Underwood. HR – Beard (Tenn.) 4th, none on; 5th, none on. 3B – Clarke (Tenn.). 2B – Webb (Va.), Wylie, Sanderlin (Tenn.).
North Carolina 11, Virginia 1, 6 inn.
A much better start resulted in a disappointing finish Sunday as Duplin County, N.C. claimed an 11-1 win in a game shorted to six innings by the 10-run rule.
“We were ready to play on Sunday, and we did play well for three innings,” said Matthews. “We didn’t hit the ball real well. We scored that run real early and made a couple mistakes, and I thought the first inning may have been bigger.”
Consecutive one-out singles by Lamb, Rosen and Webb gave Virginia a quick 1-0 lead, but a pickoff and a fly-out ended what could have been a big start for the Cavaliers.
Duplin County, from near Wilmington, got a two-out single from Tyler Haney to knot the game at 1-1, and North Carolina began to pull away beginning with a three-run third. Trent Sutton doubled home two runs and scored on the second of back-to-back two-out throwing errors for a 4-1 lead.
Carolina opened it up with five runs in the fourth, including two-run base hits by Austin Benson and Ricky Langston.
“When we didn’t come right back, that made North Carolina
better,” Matthews said. “I don’t think they were that much better than we were, but we didn’t answer that one run in the first. We got a little anxious at the plate and got out on our front foot, and we hit a lot of flies and pop-ups, which is not typical of us. They started peppering the ball and we made a couple of mistakes, and it sort of snowballed.”
Marcus Kornegay ended the game with one out in the sixth with an RBI single.
“I don’t want to say I don’t want them to be disappointed, because any time you get on such a big stage you’d like to play a little bit better,” said Matthews. “But we were talking about it and there are 3,500 kids that play Dixie Pre-Majors baseball, and there were 160 of them here in Ozark, and our 16 kids were part of that 160. That kind of puts it into perspective. There were an awful lot of teams sitting at home wondering what it was like to be at the world series, and we do know what it was like to be there.”
North Carolina 11, Virginia 1 6 innings
Carroll County, Va. 100 000–– 1 5 4
Duplin County, N.C. 103 511––11 14 2
Rosenbaum, Webb (4), Nelson (6) and Snow. Haney and Sutton. WP – Haney. LP – Rosenbaum. 2B – Press, Sutton, Bryant, Benson (N.C.).