JEFFERSON — A strong start and an equally strong finish on Tuesday night bookended the Wilkes County American all-star team’s 12-3 win against Yancey County in the opening round of the Tar Heel League District 2 tournament at Dr. Pepper Field.

Wilkes American scored the Tar Heel League maximum (five runs) in the first and four in the fifth but Yancey County played even with them for the other three innings.

Wilkes American wasted little time building its lead, which started with an RBI single from Peyton Gregory. Wilkes American’s shortstop also added a RBI double in the fifth; he finished 2-for-3.

Bradley Wiles and Sam Rollins each added RBI singles in the inning while Kai Jackson, who finished 3-for-3 with four runs batted in, added a two-run single to make it 5-0.

Wilkes American pushed the lead to 7-0 in the second with a two-run single from Tate Vannoy but Yancey responded in the bottom of the second with an RBI single from Maciah Davidson.

After Jackson added an RBI double in the third, Yancey County cut it as close as 8-3 after three innings behind Easton Greene’s RBI groundout, and Jaden Jones legged out an RBI triple.

However, Wilkes County put the game out of reach in the fifth.

After Gregory’s double scored Vannoy, Wiles added an RBI infield single and Jackson tacked on an RBI double to push the lead to 11-3.

Tyler Call added an RBI single to provide the final tally.

Wilkes County’s defense had a key highlight on Tuesday as it nearly pulled off a traditional double play in the fifth after Yancey’s Cannon Morton hit a grounder to Vannoy at third base. Vannoy was able to force out Tyson Norton at second base but Aiden Brown’s throw to Ean Johnson at first base was just a tad late.

After back-to-back singles from Greene and Jones, Nolan Deyton hit into a game-ending fielder’s choice as he hit a grounder to Gregory at short, who threw over to Brown at second for the force out.

Jackson, Wiles and Josh Call led a balanced attack at the plate with three hits apiece. In addition to Gregory, Vannoy and Tyler Call added two hits apiece.

Norton and Jones paced Yancey County, which defeated Ashe County 13-2 in an elimination game on Wednesday night. They face Hickory in another loser’s bracket game tonight at 6.

Note: Wilkes American followed up Tuesday’s win with a 15-1 victory over Watauga on Wednesday evening and automatically qualified for the Tar Heel League state tournament, which begins on July 25 in Smithfield. They face Wilkes National tonight with the winner advancing to Saturday’s district championship.

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