The New Tazewell Little League program is again making headlines with winning play during the All Star tournament. The 13-14 year-old baseball team managed to qualify for the state tournament by defeating Grainger County on July 3 in a thriller that ended with a score of 7-6.
The road to the championship game for the New Tazewell All Stars began earlier in the week by defeating Grainger — dropping them down into the losers bracket to play Bean Station — with the winner coming back around to battle New Tazewell once again. Grainger was set to face Bean Station, but the game had to be forfeited due to the lack of players in the Bean Station dugout.
After a 12-5 victory during the first meeting, the New Tazewell All Stars were the favorite to win the District 6 championship, so they knew Grainger would bring the effort. The New Tazewell All Stars were ready for the upcoming battle on the diamond.
Grainger went to the plate to start the game with their bats ready. They loaded the bases, and scored a run to put the pressure directly on the home team. Jake Wilson began the game on the mound for New Tazewell, but helped his own cause at the plate. His single followed by Lucas Manning’s RBI double tied the game.
For the next two innings the score remained 1-1 — despite a good effort at the plate by Jake Gross and Evan Poore. Ryley Hager hit a RBI double in the bottom of the fourth that broke the tie, and gave New Tazwell a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Grainger exploded for three runs and regained the lead 4-2 to the dismay of the New Tazewell faithful sitting in the stands. Wilson, Daniel Atkins, Manning, Alex Boling, Lucas Rubion and Gross combined to rally back in the bottom of the fifth to give their team a 6-4 lead and a little momentum. Grainger went three-up and three-down in the top of the sixth. New Tazewell failed to score runs in the bottom of the sixth as well.
Hager took the mound for the New Tazewell All Stars during the top of the fifth. His pitching settled the team down and helped them lead the comeback. Hager was upset with his performance during the top of the seventh when Grainger took the momentum away, and was looking to tie or take the lead. Hager was removed from the mound, but his coaches tried to uplift his spirits — because they knew he would be needed at the plate during the bottom of the inning. His team also tried to lift his spirits, and after getting the third out the game was tied at 6.
Gross led off the bottom of the inning with a walk and Hager was up next. Gross stole second and set New Tazewell up with the winning run in scoring position. Hager connected with the ball — sending it through an opening in the defense — and provided the game winning RBI that won the championship for the New Tazewell team. The team ran immediately over to Hager and celebrated with him before shaking hands with Grainger.
Coach Randall Poore was soaked with the ice cold contents of the water bucket, and the team later received their 2015 banner. It was the age group’s second banner in a row. The coaching staff thanked every sponsor, parent and fan for their support. The team will practice for a few days before traveling to Spring Hill for state tournament action.
Reach Allen Earl at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @pitchadude.