SPARTA — Defense was the calling card for both Wilkes County and Yancey County all-stars through the first five innings of Monday night’s little league tournament opener.
But Yancey County was able to utilize the long ball — two of them — to knock off Wilkes County 5-3 in the first round of the District 2 tournament at Davis Field on the campus of Alleghany High School.
Both home runs came off the bat of Yancey’s Malachi Cooper with the latter putting his team ahead for good.
Trailing 3-2 in the top of sixth, Yancey County (1-0) put the tying run in scoring position on a Brayden Deyton walk and Cason Jones single, bringing Cooper to the plate.
Down 0-2 in the count, Yancey’s third baseman cranked a three-run homer to left field to take the lead.
Wilkes County (0-1) had one last chance to keep the game going after Jacob Adams reached on an error with two outs.
C.J. Burleson, who relieved Yancey starting pitcher Caden Carroll in the third inning, struck out Phoenix Blackburn to end the game.
Burleson pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just one hit — a single to Eli Johnson in the fifth inning — and struck out six with no walks. Yancey’s pitching staff held Wilkes County to just two hits.
Following Johnson’s single, Payton Luffman was hit by a pitch and Wilkes looked to be in good shape to increase its one-run lead.
But Burleson induced a double play from Grayson Clonch, advancing Johnson over to third on the play. Johnson was left stranded at third on Grayson Townsell’s groundout.
Wilkes County appeared to be in control early on Townesell’s two-run single. Wilkes County loaded the bases in the bottom of the first on a Levi Sadler walk and a Casey Adams hit by pitch but all three were stranded when Carroll struck out Jacob Adams.
After Cooper cut Wilkes’ lead in half with a solo homer in the top of the second, Wilkes responded with a Luffman RBI groundout to take a 3-1 lead.
Yancey nearly made it a one-run game in the third after Carroll singled with two outs and stole second. As Carroll stole third, Johnson attempted to throw him out but the throw sailed over Sadler’s head.
Luckily, left fielder Brady Shore was able to back up the throw and threw a laser to Johnson to tag out Carroll.
Yancey’s Zeke Adwaters cut Wilkes County’s lead to 3-2 in the top of the fifth with a sacrifice fly.
Wilkes County appeared to have found its swing on Wednesday night as it defeated Ashe County 21-0 in an elimination game at Alleghany High School.
The win advanced Wilkes to another elimination game tonight at 7:30 against Alleghany. If it wins, it will play again Saturday at noon. The championship game was originally scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. but that has changed with Thursday’s games being rained out. It will now be Sunday at 3 p.m.
Wilkes County plated six runs in the first inning and then erupted for 10 in the second before scoring five more in the third to end the game after three innings by mercy rule. Wilkes County pounded out 22 hits in the win.
Johnson and Clonch highlighted Wilkes’ third inning as each player homered. Clonch had a three-run long ball while Johnson, who went 3-for-3 at the plate, connected on a solo shot.
Lambert, who had a pair of doubles, also finished with three hits in the game. He also picked the win on the mound as he combined with Grayson Townsell to throw a perfect game. Lambert pitched the first two innings and struck out all six batters he faced. Townsell pitched the third and collected a pair of strikeouts.
Only one Ashe County player — Carson Woods — made contact during the game when he grounded out to Clonch at first base to end the third inning.
Clonch finished 2-for-3 at the plate; Jackson Buchanan, Jermaine Ferguson, Casey Adams and Sadler also finished with two hits.