By VAN HOLLAND
WILLIAMSTON – The Tarboro 12-under All-Star team came up short Sunday in the Little Tar Heel state tournament championship game. Rocky Mount defeated them 8-0. Tarboro finished as the runner-up and their only two losses were to Rocky Mount. Tarboro finished their all-star run with a 9-2 overall record.
"I am very pleased with the way we played during the tournament," Tarboro coach Bill Howerin said. "As I told them toward the end of the game there are some aspects that can be coached and then there are some that can't. You can coach fielding, pitching and hitting, but the mental part of the game has to be up to the players."
Tarboro collected only one hit in the game and that came off the bat of Mike Wiggins in the sixth inning when he hit a double off the right-centerfield fence.
Rocky Mount's Hunter Robinson was very effective. He walked four and struck out 11. He used his fastball to get a lot of batters looking at the called third strike.
Out of the 11 strike outs in the game, six of them looked at the third strike.
Defensively Tarboro just couldn't make the plays behind pitcher Jesus Garcia. Tarboro committed five errors, three in the first two innings. The errors helped Rocky Mount score six runs. Rocky Mount scored seven of their eight runs in the first two innings. They used three home runs to help them seal the championship.
Garcia made three mistakes, which resulted in three home runs, but he was effective most of the game. He struck out seven batters and walked just one.
"Defensively I don't know what happened to us," Howerin said. "We usually make most of the plays we made errors on. Jesus did a good job for us."
To get to the championship game, Tarboro had to scratch and claw. They scored runs off of home runs and also made their opponents make mistakes that helped them be successful Friday and Saturday.
Tarboro was able to score runs with two outs in a couple of games that helped keep them alive in the tournament.
After losing to Rocky Mount Friday, Tarboro bounced back and beat Zebulon, South Johnston for the second time and then beat West Chatham to advance to the title game.
"I kept telling the team it isn't over until it is over," Howerin said. "I just wanted the guys to continue to fight and play at the level I know they were capable of playing. We were able to win some close games and make it back to the championship game. That says a lot for a team that comes all the way back through the loser's bracket."
Facing elimination Saturday in the first game, Tarboro used the long ball to keep their tournament hopes alive. Mason Riley hit a grand slam and Mike Wiggins hit a three-run homer to give them the 7-5 win over South Johnston.
In the second game Saturday, Tarboro defeated West Chatham 5-2. Tarboro collected just three hits in that game. The big hit came in the fifth inning when Justin Ramirez hit a three-run homer to give Tarboro the boost.
"We were able to stay focused and win some close games," Howerin said. "We found hits at the right times. I am just glad we were able to stay focused going through the loser's bracket."
Howerin said it was special to coach a team like he had. He said it meant a lot to him to be able to coach them to two championship games during their all-star run.
Tarboro was led offensively by Wiggins and Ramirez. Wiggins batted .470 going 8 for 17 with a home run and four RBIs. Ramirez hit .473 going 9 for 19 with two home runs and four RBIs. Garcia batted .375 going 6 for 16 with a home run and four RBIs. Dillon Johnson was 5 for 19, while Hunter Medford added two hits and a RBI, Riley added two hits with a grand slam and Kevin Braswell was 4 for 12 with a home run and three RBIs.