The Tarboro 12-under All-Star team is one win away from advancing to the Little Tar Heel state.
An 11 run fifth inning helped Tarboro secure a spot in the championship game of the Little Tar Heel district tournament. They defeated the Washington Blue 16-6 in semifinal action Sunday. This was Tarboro's fourth win and each of them have come by the mercy rule. They have outscored their opponents 53-10 in those games.
"We got our offense going in the fifth inning," Tarboro coach Bill Howerin said. "We have been hitting the ball great all tournament and I just hope that continues in the championship game. I can't keep depending on it every game, but if it happens it would be nice."
Tarboro trailed 6-5 going into the bottom of the fifth inning and Howerin told his team it was their inning to comeback and take the lead to win. His team responded and sent 14 batters to the plate that inning. Tarboro had 10 batters come to the plate before Washington could record an out.
Tarboro hit three home runs in the game to carry their tournament total to 13, but in the fifth inning they didn't rely on the long ball. They used base hits and took advantage of some miscues by Washington.
"The fifth inning said it all for us tonight," Howerin said. "We got hits at the right times and took advantage of certain things."
Tarboro's pitching has been one of the reasons they have been successful with the exception of the offense. The pitching has dominated opponents and put Tarboro in the position to win.
"If we keep throwing the ball across the plate like we have been we will be alright," Howerin said. "Our pitchers have done exactly what I have asked of them and that was to throw strikes."
Jesus Garcia started for Tarboro and pitched two innings, giving up three runs on two hits. He walked three and struck out four. Howerin decided not to go back with Garcia in the third, because if a pitcher throws three or more innings in a game, he must have a calendar days rest before he can pitch again. Howerin knew regardless if they won, he would need Garcia tonight no matter if it were in the championship game or not.
Dillon Johnson threw 2 1/3 innings giving up three runs on five hits, walked one and struck out one. Justin Ramirez finished the fifth inning when Johnson got into a little trouble.
"My pitching strategy worked out in our favor," Howerin said. "I can go back with my top three guys in the championship game."
Garcia was the leader offensively. He went 2 for 3 with a HR and five RBIs. Mason Riley was 3 for 4 with a HR and three RBIs. Mike Wiggins added a HR and two RBIs, while Hunter Medford had two hits and a RBI and Tanner Wittig added a two RBI double.
"Our offense has been very impressive and if we keep hitting like we have been we will be a tough team to beat," Howerin said. "We are getting key hits at the right times and are scoring lots of runs."
Tarboro trailed 3-2 in the third. The Washington coach decided to walk Ramirez, which put runners on first and second for Tarboro. Garcia took a big swing at the first pitch he saw and hit it about 300 feet in the trees in left field. That gave Tarboro the 5-3 lead. Washington answered back and scored one in the fourth and two in the fifth to take the 6-5 lead.
Tarboro will wait and see who they play in the championship game tonight at 8 p.m. They will play the winner of the loser's bracket.
"We have to keep playing good baseball and see what happens," Howerin said. "We can't count on scoring double digit runs every game. We had one big inning tonight and that helped us out."
Heading into the championship game, Howerin knows his team has the advantage if they play Washington again, because they used their top pitcher for four plus innings which makes him ineligible to throw tonight.
"I feel good about our chances, because I know their number one guy is not going to throw," Howerin said. "We just have to come ready to play."