The Wilkes County American and Wilkes County National coach pitch all-star teams had already secured spots for the Tar Heel League state tournament prior to Monday’s games.
But the District 2 championship game at Memorial Park was about more than just gaining momentum before the state tournament.
Both teams gained a measure of momentum, but in the end it was Wilkes American that came away with the district championship after a 13-5 victory in a winner-take-all contest.
While Wilkes American won the district title, Wilkes National gained a measure of redemption and confidence after earning a 6-0 shutout victory in the first game on Monday.
The win came after dropping an 11-5 decision in the winner’s bracket final last Friday at Ashe County.
Wilkes National, which also defeated Yancey County to earn its spot in the finals, flexed its defensive muscles in the first game as it held Wilkes American to just six hits.
Calloway Greene — one of three Wilkes National players with two hits in the first game — put his team ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first when he scored on Calvin Shores’ fielder’s choice.
Wilkes American (4-1) had a chance to tie the game in the top of the third after Lane Anderson, American’s final batter in the order, reached base with a two-out single.
But Anderson couldn’t advance any further as Josh Call flied out to Brayden Nichols at shortstop.
Wilkes National pushed the lead to 3-0 behind back-to-back RBI doubles from Braxton Brown and Brinn Walker. Nichols tacked on another run with an RBI groundout.
Masen Hendren, who also had two hits, and Greene each added an RBI single in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. Levi Rhoades also had two hits in the game.
Tyler Call led Wilkes American at the plate with a 2-for-2 performance.
Wilkes American found its offensive rhythm in the second game as it pounded out 20 hits and scored in four of the five innings.
The visitors for the second game, American wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Peyton Gregory connected on an RBI single. Wilkes American’s shortstop scored to make it 2-0 after an inning of play on Bradley Wiles’ fielder’s choice.
Wilkes American received plenty of offensive production from the bottom portion of its order. American pushed the lead to 5-0 behind a pair of RBI doubles from Henry Welborn and Anderson (a two-run double), sandwiched in between an RBI single from Colby Tharpe.
The bottom four batters in the order went a combined 6-for-8 at the plate with Anderson and Westen Hincher finishing with two hits apiece.
Josh Call extended the lead to 7-0 in the second with an RBI single, bringing an end to the inning via Tar Heel League’s five-run rule.
Wilkes National (3-1) bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the second behind an RBI double from Dominick Portante and a Hayden Sampson RBI double.
After Aiden Brown’s RBI single in the third, Wilkes National trimmed the deficit to 8-5 after three innings thanks to a two-run double from Shores and Carsen Snider’s RBI single. Snider and Nichols paced Wilkes National with two hits apiece.
The score would remain the same until the top of the fifth when Wilkes American struck again.
Tate Vannoy, who along with Josh Call finished three hits apiece, drove in a run with a double and then Call came around to score on a throwing error.
Brown extended Wilkes American’s lead to 11-5 with a single. After Gregory doubled and Wiles flew out, Kai Jackson ended the inning with a two-run double, putting Wilkes National on its heels.
Rhoades and Walker connected on a pair of singles in the bottom of the fifth with Walker’s hit putting Rhoades in scoring position with one out.
But the next two Wilkes National players couldn’t drive him in, ending the game.