Facing possible elimination with a loss, the Wilkes County Midget League all-stars cruised past Mitchell County 20-1 in the loser’s bracket semifinals of the District 2 baseball tournament Wednesday evening at Cub Creek Park.
Even though Wilkes had the home field advantage of location, they were the visiting team on the field and it wasted little time, putting up seven runs in the first at-bat for a commanding lead.
The scoring rally started with a Jake Lambert walk and Eli Bare reaching on an error from Mitchell pitcher Owen Riddle, allowing Lambert to score. Another Hickory error on Mason Cardwell’s ground ball to second base brought in Bare for the early 2-0 lead.
With runners on first and second, Camden Wayne flied out to right field for the first out, allowing runners to tag up and score Trey Hutchison. Wilkes managed to load the bases after a Hunner Brown walk and Slater Meade was hit by pitch. Riddle continued to struggle to find the strike zone for Mitchell, walking Cash Wilmoth and Will Rhoades in consecutive at-bats to extend the lead to 5-0, forcing a pitching change.
Noah Vines took over on the mound for Mitchell and forced the next two batters into fielder’s choice groundballs to third base, with runs scoring each time, giving the Wilkes all-stars a 7-0 lead to end the inning.
Mitchell managed to put two on with one out in the bottom of the first after a single to left field and an error, but the next two batters popped out to prevent an early comeback.
Wilkes County (3-1) picked up right where it left off in the second inning, clicking on all cylinders, adding another nine runs.
With one out and two on, Wayne sent a pop up to left field but the ball was dropped, allowing a run to score. After back-to-back walks loaded the bases, Wilkes County completed four consecutive hits, highlighted by Wilmoth’s two-run single up the middle and Rhoades’ two-run triple that rolled to the right-field fence, en route to a 16-0 lead.
Mitchell (1-2) looked to get things going offensively in the bottom half of the second. After two walks and a fielding error, Mitchell loaded the bases with only one out. Vines attempted to put down a squeeze bunt to catch Wilkes off guard, but Hutchison fielded the bunt and fired home for the force out. The righty struck out the next batter to end Mitchell’s scoring opportunity.
With an already commanding lead, Wilkes added four more runs in the third to extend its lead to 20-0.
Facing a nearly inevitable end by run-rule, Mitchell managed to erase the shutout by scoring off of Shooter Fox’s single up the first base line. Wilkes prevented any further damage as Hutchison struck out the last batter looking to seal the victory.
Hutchison picked up the win for the Wilkes County all-stars as he went the distance, giving up only three hits and one run with three strikeouts.
Wilkes County advanced to the finals today at 5:30 p.m. (was scheduled for Thursday but was postponed due to rain) when it gets a rematch with Hickory. Wilkes fell 6-5 to Hickory in the winner’s bracket semifinals last Saturday, forcing its run through the loser’s bracket. With the loss, Mitchell was eliminated from the tournament. Since the tournament is a double-elimination format, Wilkes County would need to defeat Hickory in consecutive games to advance to the state tournament. Should Wilkes win today’s game, it would set up a winner-take-all championship game on Saturday at 10 a.m.