Wilkes County’s coach pitch all-star teams turned in one of their best collective efforts in the North Carolina Tar Heel League state tournament play last weekend.
The Wilkes County American all-stars made it all the way to Sunday’s state championship before it lost to Cleveland 11-8 to end its tournament run 4-2. Wilkes National finished fifth overall.
Below are recaps from each day of tournament action involving Wilkes County American:
Tar Heel League championship game
Wilkes American jumped out to a 3-2 lead after an inning of thanks to run-scoring base hits from Aiden Brown, Tate Vannoy and Kai Jackson.
Wilkes pushed the lead to 4-2 in the second on a Colby Tharpe RBI single.
But Cleveland, which finished the state tournament undefeated, responded with the league-maximum five runs in the top of the fourth to take the lead.
Wilkes American cut the deficit to 7-6 after four innings, highlighted by an Ean Johnson RBI double. Lane Anderson also added an RBI groundout.
After Cleveland tacked on four more runs in the top of the sixth, Wilkes American looked to force extra innings in its final at-bat.
Jackson reached on an error to score Vannoy and Johnson scored Bradley Wiles with another error to trim the deficit to 11-8 with just one out but the next two batters were unable to reach base.
Brown, Johnson, Josh Call and Westen Hincher all finished with two hits apiece.
Sunday loser’s bracket final
Before Sunday’s championship game, Wilkes American needed to defeat Garner to stay alive and did so on the strength of a 5-3 win.
Wilkes American staked its claim to a 3-0 lead after two innings when a run scored behind a fielder’s choice from Anderson and an RBI single from Johnson.
The advantage swelled to 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth behind RBI singles from Hincher and Anderson.
Garner (4-2) scored a run in the top of the fifth and then tacked on two more in the top of the sixth, but Wilkes American was able to settle down and record the final three outs to advance.
Wiles, Hincher and Anderson all finished with two hits apiece.
Wilkes American started off strong against Cleveland in its first game on Saturday afternoon with an RBI triple from Peyton Gregory, who scored after a fielder’s choice from Vannoy.
Cleveland tied the game with two runs in the first and each team added a run in the third.
After Cleveland increased the lead to 4-3 in the fourth, Wilkes American retook the lead in the top of the fifth with five runs, headlined by an RBI single from Tharpe, Henry Welborn scoring when Anderson reached on an error. Call pushed the lead to 8-4 with an RBI single.
But Cleveland rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to claim the win and advance to the state title game.
Josh Call paced Wilkes American with three hits while Welborn and Tharpe added two hits apiece.
Wilkes American squared off with fellow District 2 representative Yancey County and captured a 10-4 win on Friday morning.
Wilkes started off strong with four runs in the first and led 5-1 after four innings.
Yancey County cut Wilkes’ lead to 5-4 in the top of the fifth but Wilkes American responded with five runs in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by an RBI double from Tharpe and an RBI triple from Brown.
Tate Vannoy led the way with three hits while Josh Call, Brown, Gregory, Jackson and Anderson all had two hits apiece.
Wilkes American followed up the morning victory with an 8-6 win over Dare County on Friday afternoon.
Wilkes found itself down 3-2 after two innings and 4-2 going into the bottom of the fourth inning.
But it responded with five runs in the bottom of the fourth and added an insurance run in the fifth when Hincher scored after Tharpe reached on an error to make it an 8-4 advantage.
Dare County made it an 8-6 game with two outs in the sixth but Wilkes American buckled down and caught a flyout at third base to secure the win.
Josh Call and Tyler Call finished with two hits apiece to lead Wilkes American.
Wilkes American flashed the leather in its state tournament opener — a 4-0 win over Jamesville on Thursday night.
After allowing a single to Jamesville lead off hitter Caiden Ange to start the game, Wilkes American did not allow another hit the rest of the game. It also allowed just one other Jamesville player to reach base in the final three innings.
Wilkes American scored twice in the first inning and tacked on another run in the second to lead 3-0 after two innings.
The lead remained the same until Tharpe plated Hincher with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Wiles and Sam Rollins led Wilkes American at the plate with two hits apiece while five other players added one hit each.