SMITHFIELD — In the Tar Heel Leagues District V Little League Championship game between Southern Johnston Baseball Association South and Clayton, there wasn’t anything little at all about the difference in the game.
SJBA South muscled past Clayton 10-0 in four innings thanks to a five-run third inning and three home runs to claim the title.
Christian Pollard started things off in the bottom of the first with a homerun to straightaway centerfield, Cole Winborne lofted another blast over the fence in the second and Jae'Quan Wells tattooed yet another shot almost 300 feet in the fourth inning.
“It’s amazing; it’s amazing to watch these boys play baseball,” SJBA South coach Jason Parker said. “They’re all about winning, they play the game like they’re supposed to, they’ve got great attitudes and they hit the ball exceptionally well.”
South spread its lead in the third inning on an unearned run and a pair of two-run base hits from Scott Carroll and Patrick Allen.
Christian Pollard also more than held his own on the mound for South, going four innings and striking out five for the one-hit shutout to propel South to the state tournament to defend its title from a year ago.
SJBA South, who will enter the state tournament held at both the Smithfield and Clayton Community Parks from July 24-27, will do so as the defending champion in the Little League division.
‘I feel good,” Parker said when asked of his team’s chances at the state tournament. “It’s an easy team to coach. To be honest we feel that we have as good, if not a better team this year than we did last year.”
Clayton entered its contest against South with an exhausted and depleted pitching staff. After dropping its first game of the tournament to Jacksonville, Clayton first defeated North Johnston and then Jacksonville in a wild 13-12 game that ended when Josh Federico brought home Brendan Outlaw on a walk-off single in the team final at bat.
“We made a really good effort in that last inning to take that game by one run,” Clayton coach Doug Sakowski said. “After that, of course we had to turn around in 20 minutes and play a very strong South Johnston team.
“Our bats did not continue into the second game and then a very strong hitting, fresh South Johnston team had really too much firepower for what we had left.”
Garrett Hill continued his hot hitting and was the only Clayton batter to record a hit off of Pollard the entire game. Cade Sakowski drew a walk in the third inning to represent the only other base runner for Clayton but Pollard was able retire the side in both instances.
Jacob Whittington and Lee Thomas took turns early on trying to limit the South firepower and did admirable work against a team that was able to put runs up on the scoreboard at will all tournament.
“From a pitching standpoint, we had exhausted a lot of pitching to get to this game,” Sakowski said, who credited Thomas and Whittington as having kept Clayton in the game over the first couple of innings. “The bats just didn’t really get us going and keep us in the game.”